stinky reaction from 3 womenProblems with the sense of smell are often overlooked, despite their importance.

Imagine the foul smell of an ash tray or burning hair. Now imagine if these kinds of smells were present in your life, but without a source.

A new study finds that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors. The study, published in JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery examined the prevalence of and risk factors for phantom odor perception.

Phantom odor perception

It can have a big impact on appetite, food preferences, and the ability to smell danger signals such as fire, gas leaks, and spoiled food,” said Judith A. Cooper, Ph.D., acting director of the  National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, NIDCD.

Donald Leopold, M.D., one of the study’s authors adds that patients who perceive strong phantom odors often have a miserable quality of life, and sometimes cannot maintain a healthy weight.

Do you sometimes smell an unpleasant, bad, or burning odor when nothing is there?

The ability to identify odors tends to decrease with age. Phantom odor perception, on the other hand, seems to improve with age.

Key Findings:

  • Twice as many women as men reported phantom odors,  female predominance was particularly striking for those under age 60.
  • Other risk factors for the onset of phantom odors include head injury, dry mouth, poor overall health, and low socio-economic status.
  • Lower socioeconomic status may phantom odors, either directly or because of medications needed to treat their health conditions.

The causes of phantom odor perception are not understood.

The condition could be related to overactive odor-sensing cells in the nasal cavity or perhaps a malfunction in the part of the brain that understands odor signals.

A good first step in understanding any medical condition is a clear description of the phenomenon.

More Information:

National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD): NIDCD

National Institutes of Health (NIH):  www.nih.gov.

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Geraldine Jensen

Geraldine Jensen is a child support enforcement expert. She is the author of How to Collect Child Support and the Status of Child Support Enforcement in the U.S.Geraldine is the founder of ACES, Association for Children for Enforcement of Support, Inc. ACES was founded in Toledo, Oho and grew to have 400 chapters in 48 states with over 50,000 members. ACES successfully advocated for children's legal and moral right to child support payments. At ACES,she advocates for, coaches and empowers single parents.
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