Useful pages - index
Initially, I regarded this page as something of a self-indulgence, since I doubted that the information would be of much use to anyone else. I was basically just trying to raise awareness about this condition. However, since I put it up, I have received many kind words from fellow anosmics who've found it useful, which was a pleasant surprise. Anyway, on with the important stuff...
I have a condition called anosmia, which means that I don't have a sense of smell. This condition is pretty rare - in fact, most of the doctors I've been to have claimed that it doesn't exist at all, and that I'm a liar, which was rather frustrating. Actually, I found out that this was the name for it on a McDonald's "Trivial Pursuits" card from a promotion they had about ten years ago. You can verify this by looking the word up in a standard (i.e. not medical) dictionary.
Here is a basic FAQ about anosmia, to save time in conversations:
Q: So, you can't smell anything at all?
A: Nope, nothing at all. Never have, probably never will.
Q: How about a really smelly sock?
A: No, nothing at all.
Q: How about a compost heap?
A: No, nothing at all.
Q: How about ammonia?
A: No, I can't smell anything!
Q: So, if you were eating dung, and you were blindfolded, you wouldn't know?
A: Not at first, no. However, I do have a sense of taste, so I would know once I started eating it. So far, though, this situation has not arisen!
This last one leads onto my next point. As you were probably taught in school, we all (!) have five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. Most people tend to link these last two together, since they operate in similar ways. I read somewhere that the sense of smell is ten thousand times as powerful as the sense of taste. This means that generally, your taste sensation is overwhelmed by the smell sensation, to the extent that the taste sensation is almost imperceptible. I think that this is why people hold their noses when they want to drink medicine that tastes bad (an alternate explanation is that they want to force themselves to open their mouths). I read in a biology text book that "this is why when we have a cold we can't taste anything". This is untrue. The sense of taste is unaffected, but it is so puny by comparison that most people don't notice it. In the same way that people who listen to lots of loud music can develop bad hearing, and not be able to pick up on very quiet sounds, people who are used to getting 10,001 units of sensation find that they don't notice 1 unit if the other 10,000 go away.
By comparison, I have spent my whole life listening to this little "voice in the wilderness", so I would say that my sense of taste is actually more highly developed than average. This is partly a question of wordplay - the "taste experience" that you get when you eat food is going to be more intense than mine. However, my taste buds (on my tongue) will give me more information.
Anosmia is very rare, so the chances are that you could go your whole life without meeting anyone who has it. I've only met one other person with this condition. However, the internet has been very useful here, to bring people together from all walks of life, and from all over the globe. As I mentioned above, since I first created this page, I've been contacted by several other people with anosmia. Here are a couple of other useful sites:
These views are my own, which I have formed after living with anosmia my whole life (29 years and counting). There are those who disagree with some of them; however, these people all have senses of smell themselves. I am not a doctor, and there might be established medical facts that contradict what I've written here. On the other hand, I was told by doctors that everyone has a sense of smell, so I'm thinking I could take these "medical facts" and use them to wipe my bottom. Your mileage may vary.
This page was last updated on 2003-12-29 by John C. Kirk