Is loss of taste and smell normal with aging?

Answer From Paul Y. Takahashi, M.D.

Some loss of taste and smell is natural with aging, especially after age 60. But other factors can contribute to loss of taste and smell, including:

  • Nasal and sinus problems, such as allergies, sinusitis or nasal polyps
  • Viral infections, including the common cold and the flu
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Certain medications, including beta blockers and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Dental problems
  • Cigarette smoking
  • Head or facial injury
  • Diseases that affect the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease

Loss of taste and smell can have a significant impact on quality of life. It often leads to decreased appetite and poor nutrition. It can sometimes contribute to depression. Loss of taste and smell also might tempt you to use excess salt or sugar on your food to enhance the taste. This could be a problem if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.

If you're experiencing loss of taste and smell, see your health care provider. Some causes of impaired taste and smell are treatable. For example, your health care provider might adjust your medications if they're contributing to the problem. Many nasal and sinus conditions and dental problems can be treated as well. If you smoke, quitting can help restore your sense of smell.

Most people who have loss of taste and smell associated with COVID-19 disease report seeing improvements in their symptoms in a few weeks. However, for some, loss of taste and smell may linger for months.

If your symptoms don't improve after treating the cause of your loss of taste and smell, your health care provider may recommend smell training therapy. This therapy involves smelling four different scents for about 10 to 20 seconds twice a day for at least three months. Your health care provider might also recommend strategies to help you cope with loss of taste and smell.

If necessary, your health care provider might recommend consulting an allergist, an ear, nose and throat specialist (otolaryngologist), a neurologist, or other specialist.

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Sept. 21, 2023 See more Expert Answers