Anosmia Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything


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Anosmia is a medical condition where the sufferer has a complete lack of smell, and it's not to be confused with 'insomnia', which is the inability to sleep. Anosmia is to smell as blindness is to sight, or deafness is to hearing. Anosmics cannot detect scents of any kind, be they fair or foul. Normally, the only thing about anosmics that smells is their feet. Joking apart, however, if you have a diminished and partial sense of smell then you suffer from a similar condition known as hyposmia. Numerous things can cause anosmia, such as damage to the nose via chemical fumes, vapours or hot smoke. Other possible causes are head injuries, disease, or viruses. People can also be born with it, while others simply develop it over the course of their life.

A Personal Account of an Anosmic

For me, being an anosmic is all I've ever known because I have had it since birth. It's the most natural thing in the world not to be able to smell. Sure, there are times when I wish I could smell things, like the aroma of fresh baked bread or a pot of recently brewed coffee. Many people seem to think I have no taste but I register the four basic sensations - saltiness, sweetness, bitterness and sourness - just as well as anyone. Sure, the subtle nuances of flavours may be lost on me but I enjoy my food in my own way. Herbs and mild spices are totally wasted on me and I'll never make it as a professional wine taster. Some of you may be thinking, 'I had a cold last week and everything tasted like straw'. Well, for one thing you probably had a blocked nose. For that period you were just tasting things, not smelling and tasting. Smell augments taste but does not replace it. If your cold continued for a prolonged period, your brain would learn to taste again without the extra information from scent.
I don't want to count the number of days I've been off sick because of mild (and not so mild) food poisoning. It's pretty hard telling if food is off when you can't smell it. I used to wear way too much deodorant, because I was so paranoid about having a bad smell that I practically bathed in the stuff. And not all the same brand either. Brand X spray, Brand Y after shave and Brand Z Talc. Nowadays, my friends have been instructed to tell me if I'm a little pongy. I'd rather know than not! And I'm also all-electric. I'm petrified of being in a situation where there's a gas leak. How could I tell?

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