The Voice Clinic
Altered Sense of Smell and Taste
Problems with these senses have a big impact on our lives. Smell and taste contribute to our enjoyment of life by stimulating a desire to eat, which not only nourishes our bodies, but also enhances our social activities.
When smell and taste become impaired, we eat poorly, socialize less, and feel worse. Smell and taste warn us of dangers, such as fire, poisonous fumes, and spoiled food. Loss of the sense of smell may indicate sinus disease, growths in the nasal passages, or, at times, brain tumors.
Smell belongs to our chemical sensing system (chemosensation). The complicated process of smelling and tasting begins when molecules released by the substances around us stimulate special nerve cells in the nose, mouth, or throat. These cells transmit messages to the brain, where specific smells or tastes are identified.
- Olfactory (smell nerve) cells are stimulated by the odors around usthe fragrance from a rose, the smell of bread baking. These nerve cells are found in a tiny patch of tissue high up in the nose, and they connect directly to the brain.
- Gustatory (taste nerve) cells are clustered in the taste buds of the mouth and throat. They react to food or drink mixed with saliva. Many of the small bumps that can be seen on the tongue contain taste buds. These surface cells send taste information to nearby nerve fibers, which send messages to the brain.