Harvard Health Letter

Losing your sense of smell?

How to know when it signals a bigger health issue.

You may take it for granted that a loss of smell is just part of aging. And to some degree, you're right. "After age 65, many people lose some sense of smell, and we don't know exactly why," says Dr. Eric Holbrook, assistant professor of otology and laryngology of Harvard Medical School. But if loss of smell lasts longer than a few weeks, it may indicate an underlying problem.

Causes

Our brains detect smell through receptors located high inside the nose and in a channel near the roof of the throat. A reduction in smell and taste may result when there is damage to the smell receptors or there are blockages in the nose.

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