As some of you may know, I have no sense of smell. I’m not quite sure if it was something I was born with, or perhaps it came later in life (I did have an accident when I was young where I fell from a roof and had a mild concussion, so that could have had something to do with it too). But, what I do know is that I can’t smell anything. Sometimes this is good, as I can’t smell foul odors and the like. But it’s also bad as I can’t smell my OWN foul odors, nor truly good things, like food, flowers, etc…
I do get asked various questions whenever people learn that I have no sense of smell though and just recently, I found a FAQ written by Simon Tatham (creator of PuTTY) in which he talks about the fact that HE has no sense of smell either. So… here it is, just think of all the questions and answers being for me instead
1. I can’t believe you have no sense of smell!
Why not? You’d have no trouble believing somebody was blind, or deaf. I’m just missing a different one of the five senses, and I’m fortunate that it’s not such a vital one as sight or hearing.
2. Is there a short word for the condition, like ‘blind’ or ‘deaf’?
Yes, but it’s not a very well-known word: the condition is anosmia, and people with the condition are anosmic. (Some people claim this covers impaired senses of smell as well as completely absent ones, in which case mine is complete anosmia; other people claim that a merely impaired sense of smell is hyposmia, and ‘anosmia’ should be reserved for a complete absence.)
I don’t tend to bother using these words, because I’d only have to explain what they meant most of the time.
3. Why don’t you have a sense of smell?
I don’t know.
4. Don’t you miss having a sense of smell?
Not consciously. I’ve never had a sense of smell, ever. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to smell things, so I don’t miss what I’ve never experienced.
It causes me the occasional practical problem. I get nervous of gas appliances, for example, because I can’t detect gas leaks by smell. [...] But it’s not something that generally bothers me in my daily life.
5. Since taste is partly smell, does that mean you can’t taste things?
You have to be a bit careful with the terminology here.
I have a functioning sense of taste, in the sense of the thing you do with the taste buds on your tongue. ‘Sweet’, ‘sour’, ‘salty’, and ‘bitter’ are perfectly meaningful words to me.
What most people perceive when they put food in their mouth is a combination of taste (which I can do) and smell (which I can’t). That combination of senses is sometimes referred to as ‘flavour’. My sense of flavour is therefore equivalent to my sense of taste.
There are certainly some kinds of food which I don’t find particularly interesting, but which other people appear to like, and I speculate that this might be because the flavour of those foods is mostly in their smell.
So I probably wouldn’t make a good restaurant critic or wine taster, but on the other hand there are still foods I like and dislike, and my limited sense of flavour is still broad enough for me to find plenty of variety in food. Perhaps if I’d once had a sense of smell and lost it, the spectrum of tastes I can perceive would feel flat and uninteresting; but since this is all I’ve ever had, it doesn’t bother me in the least.