A Need for Smell Retraining Even Without Sinusitis

The loss of smell (anosmia) has been a defining feature of COVID-19. Many of us have been faced with this new symptom for the first time in our life, while others have been suffering with this condition for years. Here at Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep, we have been successfully helping patients to regain their sense of smell.

There are many reasons why people lose their sense of smell including sinus infections, head traumas, and neurodegenerative diseases. Lately the loss of smell has gained notoriety as one of the defining symptoms of COVID-19 infections. Medically called parosmia if odor is distorted, anosmia if odor is completely absent and phantosmia if we smell things that really aren’t there, these changes to our sense of smell can have a dramatic impact on our health.

As a sensory intake device, our sense of smell is one of five special senses we use to connect to the outside world. People who lose this ability describe feeling isolated from the world and blunted from their own emotions. Unlike losing our sense of vision or hearing, both of which can be witnessed as notable losses by the outside world, when we lose our sense of smell we experience it alone. There really isn’t cultural empathy for this loss.

Our sense of smell also is intricately connected to a part of our brain called the limbic system. The limbic system comprises a set of structures in the brain that play a major role in controlling mood, memory, behavior, and emotion. Through this connection, smell plays a vital role in the memory, mood, and emotional part of our lives. When we lose smell, these parts of our lives are impacted greatly. In fact losing our sense of smell is often explored as an early symptom of dementia or other neurodegenerative disease.

The good news is there is something you can do if you lose your sense of smell. Smell Retraining, also called Olfactory Retraining, is a process of consciously sniffing four different odors, twice a day, fifteen seconds per sniff, for twelve weeks. Even greater benefit has been recorded if the four odors are replaced after twelve weeks and retraining with the new odors is continued for another twelve weeks. See Sorokowska A, Drechsler E, Karwowski M, Hummel T. Effects of olfactory training: a meta-analysis. Rhinology 201; 55: 17-26; and  Liu D, Sabha M, Dmm M, Philpott C, Oleszkiewicz A, Hähner A, Hummel T, Parosmia is Associated with Relevant Olfactory Recovery After Ofactory Training. Laryngoscope 00: 2020, 1-6, for research showing the effectiveness of this technique.

Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep now offers Smell Training through our office in Schaumburg, IL. We provide an ENT evaluation first to determine if you have sinus or nasal disease present, that would need to be addressed. Once that is ruled out or treated, you will receive your Smell Retraining kit, instructions, and support for using it. Call our office at 773-234-5880 to begin your journey to regaining your sense of smell.

Lisa C. Decatorsmith, L.Ac., MSOM
Practitioner of Eastern Medicine at Exhale Sinus, TMJ, Headache & Sleep