ANOSMIA AS A DISABILITY

Anosmics, lacking the sense of smell, have a tremendous disability. With due respect to all disabled people, the Anosmia Foundation believes that anosmics also deserve access to special treatment/assistance and special medical care. As well, researchers and doctors willing to investigate and treat anosmia deserve greater funding and government support than what is currently provided.

*Please note - when the quotations below use the words "we"/"our" they are generally referring to people with a sense of smell, not to anosmics.

If you experience a smell or taste problem, it is important to remember that you are not alone: thousands of other individuals have faced the same situation. More than 200,000 persons visit a physician for a smell or taste problem each year. Many more smell and taste disturbances go unreported.

Quality of Life
Comments from Anosmics
Dangers, Risks, and Physical/Mental Effects
Interesting facts

For more information see: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/pubs_st/smltaste.htm

Quality of Life

"Humans "see" the world largely through eyes and ears. We neglect the sense of smell—and often suppress our awareness of what our nose tells us. Many of us have been taught that there is something shameful about odors. Yet mothers can recognize their babies by smell, and newborns recognize their mothers in the same way. The smells that surround us affect our well-being throughout our lives. Smells also retain an uncanny power to move us. A whiff of pipe tobacco, a particular perfume, or a long-forgotten scent can instantly conjure up scenes and emotions from the past. Many writers and artists have marveled at the haunting quality of such memories. The average human being, it is said, can recognize up to 10,000 separate odors. We are surrounded by odorant molecules that emanate from trees, flowers, earth, animals, food, industrial activity, bacterial decomposition, other humans. In "A Natural History of the Senses", poet Diane Ackerman notes that it is almost impossible to explain how something smells to someone who hasn't smelled it. There are names for all the pastels in a hue, she writes — but none for the tones and tints of a smell."
From: The Mystery of Smell http://www.hhmi.org/senses/d/d110.htm

"Is our olfactory system doing more than just giving us warnings? Yes, of course. Amongst other possibilities, it serves a recognition function. We all have our own unique smell (some more pleasant than others! - but that's another story, and can recognise and be recognised by our smell. How we smell (some estimates suggest we can distinguish around 10,000 different smells), why we smell and the impact of smell to our everyday life are poorly understood. We certainly underestimate the importance of smell to our well-being - ask an anosmic (someone who has lost some or all of their sense of smell). Some anosmics suffer from depression and their quality of life is severely affected - at the moment there is little that can be done to help them."
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

“The loss of smell greatly affects the quality of life. Although (most) anosmic people are still capable of tasting the 4 basic tastes (sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), they cannot detect about 95% of the flavor of food. Loss of smell also means not being able to smell flowers, fresh baked bread, a child or lover, a newborn baby, and many other pleasures of life that most normosmics take for granted. The emotional consequences of losing the sense of smell are usually underestimated. Here are only a few of the many feelings and emotions that people may experience after they lose their sense of smell: · anger · feeling vulnerable · feeling isolated and different · being concerned about bad breath and body odor · depression · feeling powerless · feeling unsupported · feelings of loss of control.”
From: http://orpheus.ucsd.edu/chemosensorylab/anosmia.html

“Imagine the smell of some freshly baked cookies hot out of the oven, or the clean smell of a brand new car's interior. Have you ever thought what it might be like to never smell these scents again? What if you could not smell your dinner burning on the stove or the fact that the baby needs a diaper change? Of then five senses, smell seems to be the least appreciated. Society always gives attention to the senses that appear most necessary: sight and hearing. Touch and taste appear more important because it is obvious that without them life becomes more challenging. The sense of smell is very important, but taken for granted. Everyone should be aware of anosmia because as people age the disorder becomes more and more common.”
From: http://hubel.sfasu.edu/courseinfo/SL99/anosmia.html

Comments from Anosmics

“I taught blind children for 10 years and work with children with all types of disabilities who are protected by the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and others who are protected under Section 504. They have the advantage of learning to compensate for their disability & adapt to their environment. They have reasonable accommodations to access their education and are entitled to modifications to the curriculum, if needed, because of their disability... all at an early age! If there were a law to include anosmia as a disability under Section 504, these children would be entitled to early education about their lack of sense of smell. Also, because much of our education is multi-sensory, teachers should be aware of anosmiacs in order to present information in different ways besides with olfactory descriptions/stimulations. I could go on & on.....”

"I think the best way to prove that people who have anosmia have a real disability is to identify cases where the condition caused harm to individuals. I was almost trapped in a fire in my home as a kid once because of inability to smell smoke. Another time I was at home when my mother came in and immediately smelled gas. She said if the furnace had kicked on or a spark would have happened, the house would have exploded. One time I had a severe headache while studying in a room that had been painted. I did not know it had just been painted. I also had people put things in my food or drink as a joke before when they knew I could not smell."

"I'm not surprised that it's difficult to convince people of anosmia being a disability- so few people know about it that they probably don't take it seriously. I think the main thing that should be realized is that the loss of the sense of smell is just like the loss of any other sense, and it should be taken as seriously as being blind or having no sense of touch or hearing. Those are listed as disabilities because they impair a person's perception of the world around them, and have a possibility of causing harm to that person. The sense of smell is the same. We do not experience the world the same as other people do, and it also poses danger to us. So it should be taken seriously just like the loss of the other senses are, whether it is as well known or not. I can't understand why people can recognize loss of sight as a disability but not sense of smell, because they are all classified in the same category."

Dangers, Risks, and Physical/Mental Effects

"Smell is one of the chemical senses, the other being taste. They are so called because they sense chemicals and smells are, of course, chemicals. With these senses we sample our environment for information. We are continuously testing the quality of the air we breathe (this will alert us to potential dangers, e.g. smoke) as well as using this sense to inform us of other relevant information, such as the presence of food or another individual. Smell, unlike taste, can signal over long distances (an early warning device). We appear to have an innate ability to detect bad, aversive smells. One-day old babies give facial expressions that indicate rejection when given fish or rotten egg odour. Children can distinguish between the smell of their siblings and other children of the same age. Babies recognise their own mothers' smell and mothers recognise their own babies' smell. Emotion can be communicated by smell. Dogs and horses are very sensitive to the smell of fear in humans. Recent research has shown that a panel of women can discriminate between armpit swabs taken from people watching "happy" and "sad" films. Men were less good at this. The emotions of others, for example fear, contentment, sexuality, may therefore be experienced and communicated by smell. Memory is often associated with smell. Smell and memory are intimately linked - although this phenomenon is not well understood. We can smell happiness... There are suggestions that smell can influence mood, memory, emotions, mate choice, the immune system and the endocrine system (hormones). We can communicate by smell - without knowing it. In fact the sense of smell could be said to be at the mind-body interface."
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

"Smell and memory are closely linked. Smell evokes memories... odour memory falls off less rapidly that other sensory memory. Whole memories, complete with all associated emotions, can be prompted by smell. This is entirely unconscious and cannot necessarily be prompted voluntarily although countless studies have shown that recall can be enhanced if learning was done in the presence of an odour and that same odour is presented at the time of recall. Useful for exam revision!"
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

"The uncus, phylogenetically part of the "smell-brain" (or rhinencephalon), is functionally associated with the whole limbic system (which includes such brain areas as the amygdala, hippocampus, pyriforn cortex and hypothalamus), which is increasingly recognised to be crucial in determining and regulating the entire emotional 'tone'. Excitation of this, by whatever means, produces heightened emotionalism and an intensification of the senses."
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

"If we smell (or taste something) before a negative experience, that smell (or taste) is linked to that experience. The memory is very robust. This can be a problem for unpleasant medical treaments, or surgery when the last meal is often associated with the pain or trauma. But this very effect could, in the future, be put to therapeutic advantage; if smell were to be associated with a positive, healing treatment then the smell itself can substitute for the treatment once the link has been reinforced. It works in rats!"
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

"We can identify our own scent and differentiate between male and female scent."
From: The Chemical Senses http://faculty.erau.edu/vincenzd/hfs615/sensation_ch15_outline.htm

“There is a high correlation between having anosmia and having orbito-frontal brain injury, the form of brain injury which is associated with dysexecutive syndrome (inability to complete planned activity), emotional lability (disruptive mood swings), impulsive behavior and failure to adapt behavior to the lessons of experience.”
From: http://www.headinjurylaw.com/html/glossary.htm

“Anosmia is a disorder that needs to be taken seriously. Health can be greatly affected when a person has anosmia. A taste loss is one of the first things noticed by people losing their sense smell. This loss of taste can greatly affect a person's eating habits. Many people with anosmia are known to skip meals because the appeal for food is not there. Nothing seems to taste good anymore and the flavor is gone. Another reason appetite is affected, is that the aroma of foods does not cause a desire for food because the person cannot detect the luring odors from the food. Not eating results in malnutrition and involuntary weight loss. This can also lead to illness because the proper foods are not being eaten to keep a person healthy. Anosmia can also have the opposite effect and cause a person to overeat to compensate for the loss of taste. This can result in a weight problem. Obesity is a major result of elderly women with olfactory dysfunction's. While some patients become anorexic due to complete disinterest in food, others become obese because very salty, deep fried foods are the only ones with any appeal to them.”
From: http://hubel.sfasu.edu/courseinfo/SL99/anosmia.html

Interesting facts:

A paper was just published identifying 347 candidate olfactory receptor genes in the human genome - (Zozulya ET AL., Genome Biology v. 2 p. 1 - 12, 2001). The rest appear to be "pseudogenes" - i.e., not able to be expressed as functional proteins. They also indicate that there is an unusually high degree of individual variability in these genes, suggesting that olfaction may be a uniquely personal sense in that it might provide an experience of the world that is unique to each individual, in comparison to sounds or sights, which are experienced in much the same way by everyone (except of course for color blindness, or partial hearing loss problems). Although we don't yet know whether every individual will vary or whether differences will only be significant between families or populations.
Written by: Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D. Associate Member Monell Chemical Senses Center

Removal of the olfactory bulbs is the main animal model for depression, and neurochemical changes in the brain occur following this procedure that mimic those seen in depressed humans.... It is not known whether these effects are due solely to the anosmia, or to other anatomical effects.
Written by: Nancy E. Rawson, Ph.D. Associate Member Monell Chemical Senses Center

"It is now estimated that there are between 500-1000 odorant receptor genes in both humans and mice. This number of genes, specific to the olfactory system, comprises 1-2% of the 50,000 to 100,000 genes thought to make up the human genome. This number is second only to the receptors of the immune system."
From: Olfaction - A Review http://www.leffingwell.com/olfact2.htm

"Recent work...has demonstrated the ability of underarm odour to influence mood in others. The implication of this work is that a chemical signal is secreted in sweat which communicates the emotion.... We seem to possess the ability to secrete compunds that can relay information about our mood to another person."
From: A Tutorial on the Sense of Smell http://www.cf.ac.uk/biosi/staff/jacob/teaching/sensory/olfact1.html

"The primary olfactory cortex is closely connected with the hypothalamus, reticular system and the limbic lobe - which involve memory and emotion."
From: Olfactory Nerve http://medcal.bris.ac.uk/student/rk5101/cran_nerves/olfactory.html


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