Smell training can help regain our sense of smell after a temporary loss. Simple techniques help COVID-19 patients listen to their noses again.
Listen to your nose every day is the mantra I repeat to the students joining my training programs. I confess I stole this phrase from my friend, Dr. Ann Noble, the creator of the Wine Aroma Wheel.
Listening to your nose means being aware of your olfactory environment, at home, outside, everywhere. That’s an excellent way to learn new aromas and strengthen your memory with familiar odors but smelled in different contexts.
But what happens when your nose becomes silent.
The NYT reported the story of Mr. Crippa, a renowned Italian chef .
“Then, at 9:40 a.m. on Mar. 17, 2020, Mr. Crippa, 32, poured himself a cup of coffee. He tasted only hot water.”
You probably guess that a COVID infection triggered his loss of smell.
Although a rough start, the story provides hope that full or partial recovery is possible.
Mr. Crippa’s story is not isolated. A new study shows how the COVID-19 infection alters our sense of smell, even when we don’t lose 100% of our capacity.Dr. Camilla Cattaneo, from the University of Milano, presented the preliminary results of a study comparing smelling abilities of healthy individuals with hospitalized COVID-19 patients [14th Pangborn Sensory Symposium, August 9-12, 2021].
These two groups conducted two tests.
1- The identification of 12 odors (anise, banana, coffee, garlic, clove, lavender, lemon, mint, onion, orange, pine, and vanilla) and an assessment of their level of intensity,
2-The identification of 4 basic tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet) and an evaluation of their level of intensity.
Although preliminary, the data showed that the healthy individuals could identify more odors and more tastes than the COVID-19 patients. And, they perceived the intensities stronger overall than the patients.
The media reports more and more initiatives to help COVID-19 patients retrain their noses. Here are a few examples.
These smell training programs aren't so different from the sensory training we go through when we learn to describe wine aromas. It's a matter of becoming familiar with the aroma, repeated smelling exercises, before being able to identify the aroma in a wine.
Smell training works when viral infections cause impairment. Unfortunately, if the olfactory nerve is damaged or sectioned during an accident, recovering smell is impossible.
I’ve reported before how two-step training can help reconnect the neuro-nasal pathways affected by the virus.
According to this report, “the physiological effects of such simple training through repeated exposures are directly highlighted in the olfactory epithelium, the olfactory bulb.”
The keyword is repeated exposure.
Whether you consider having a “weak nose” or trying to enhance your sense of smell, there is hope through smell training. It’ll require time, consistency, and patience.
But you can do it.
Let us know in a comment below.
 ‘Super Taster’ Who Lost Sense of Smell Is Helping Italians Regain It. New York Times, August 20, 2021
 Fragrance Maker Dares to Sniff ‘What Life Really Smells Like’. New York Times, August 7, 2021
 Will Fish Sauce and Charred Oranges Return the World Covid Took From Me? New York Times March 2, 2021.
Categories: Tasting education