Brain injury

The life-threatening ramifications of sustaining a head injury can mean that secondary symptoms – such as loss of smell – are often overlooked in the early weeks of recovery. While it may not seem like a significant condition, losing your sense of smell and taste can be distressing.

Depending on your injury, smell training can help, but sometimes the damage is permanent. 

You’re not alone. AbScent’s online community – the AbScent Network – is your space to share the highs and lows and some practical tips for coping. 

 “I’m still adjusting, and I will be for the rest of my life” – Watch Kim’s story…

Do all head injuries cause a loss of smell or taste?

How your smell and taste are affected depends on the nature of the injury and the area of the brain affected. The areas of the brain that primarily control our sense of smell are the orbitofrontal cortex (behind and above our eyes), the insula (beneath our ears), and the piriform cortex (located between the first two).

Other than these, there are some smaller areas of the brain that are also involved in controlling our sense of smell, called olfactory regions. If you experience a “coup contra coup” blow to the head, the movement of the brain in response to the blow can often sever the tiny nerves that serve the sense of smell. 

Your doctor will be able to discuss the nature of your partiular injury, and whether you can expect to recover smell and taste. 

Treating loss of taste and smell

Treating the loss of taste and smell after suffering a traumatic brain injury (TBI) depends upon the nature and extent of the injuries sustained, as well as which variations of the disorders you are experiencing.

Where there is no obvious reason for smell to be permanently affected, research demonstrates that starting smell training as early as possible best supports recovery.

Bad or distorted senses of taste – known as parageusia and dysgeusia – may be treated with medications like Gabapentin.

Living with smell and taste disorders

Life without smell and taste – even temporarily – has additional challenges. AbScent provides information, practial advice and facilitates connections with others experiencing the same thing. Whether it’s what you eat, how relationships change, managing anxiety or navigating the world ‘as though you were behind glass’ we understand. Explore the tips, resources and what works for others on this website, and join our online community to connect with other brain injury survivors finding new ways to improve their quality of life.