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Sound and smell

A recent study finds 'music training' positively influences response to bad smells.
Personal experience, anecdotes from the AbScent community and advice from the Altered Eating Network all suggest that focusing on senses other than your lost or altered sense of smell is a really helpful way to boost the enjoyment factor.

So we were fascinated to read about the influence of music on perception of smell in a paper recently published in BMC Neuroscience.  The European research team investigated the effects of ‘music training’. Similar to  smell training, music training involved listening to music that made the participants feel positive for 15 minutes, twice a day over a three week period.

At the end of the period, when people were exposed to a smell like rotten egg, they didn’t find it quite as bad as the control group who hadn’t done music training.

The study demonstrates the positive effect of regular training on our senses. It was only participants who had followed the programme of regular music training that found the bad smell less unpleasant. Just listening to a positive piece of music was not enough.

Music training over three weeks is a relatively short time, and the researchers didn’t see any change in the structure of the brain to suggest this would be a permanent feature. We know that smell training needs to be continued for at least four months to see changes in the brain that suggest an improvement in the ability to smell. 

Boost natural resilience to bad smells

The study suggests that regular listening to music counteracts negative emotion states caused by unpleasant odours, and might help to boost our natural resilience to unpleasant smells. 

Now, whether this works with parosmia we can't say, but it's an incentive to continue with smell training. And wouldn’t hurt to crank up the music on your daily commute and put an extra bounce into your day.


AbScent is leading the call for more research to find treatments and cures for smell disorders. With your support, we can change the story.

This study (Berthold-Losleben et al., 2021) was published on 21 April 2021 in the open-access journal BMC Neuroscience.

July 23, 2021