If you begin to notice that your senses of taste and smell are fading, you may want to add a couple of words to your vocabulary: hyposmia and hypogeusia. The first means decreased sensitivity to odor; the second, decreased ability to taste. Knowing that you’re not alone with this condition is not comforting, but it’s important. Because it is estimated that two-million Americans suffer from diminishing smell or taste, doctors do want to find a cure. Until one is discovered, here are some ways to improve these functions.
1. Try a nasal decongestant. Dr. Howard Levine, of Mt. Sinai Nasal-Sinus Center in Cleveland, Ohio, reports that one of the most common causes of taste and smell impairment is nasal obstruction caused by the common cold and breathing allergies. An over-the-counter nasal decongestant can clear the passages temporarily and restore your ability to smell and taste. But be warned, overusing these medications can make your symptoms worsen and last longer.
2. Quit smoking. Smoking cigarettes causes long-term, but reversible, damage to the olfactory nerve and impairs the nasal passages. Smokers are twice as likely as nonsmokers to have some deficiency in their sense of smell. Many who quit experience an improvement in their ability to taste and smell that depends on the length of time they smoked, along with the length of time since they stopped smoking.
3. Get a diagnosis. If your symptoms are not caused by one of the more common and temporary causes, it’s possible that you have a medical problem. The Taste and Smell Clinic in Washington, D.C., suggests that your symptoms could be related to hypothyroidism. Your physician or endocrinologist may suggest a hormone treatment that will address your thyroid condition and help restore your senses of taste and smell.