Anosmia or Loss of Smell from Brain Injury

Return to article

Comments (308)

Please remember, we are not able to give medical or legal advice. If you have medical concerns, please consult your doctor. All posted comments are the views and opinions of the poster only.

That's exactly what happens to me. I'm a little over 24 months post TBI. Unfortunately for me nothing has come back. It's so hard to explain this to people who haven't experienced it. I love how everyone says oh I would be sooo skinny if I couldn't taste or smell. I tell them your brain doesn't know it can't taste and it still craves things. Blood sugar still spikes andndeops wether you can taste or not meaning you still get cravings for carbs. Anyway oranges and reg chocolate are a no go for me too. I pick food by textures now. Love bread pudding (previously despised it pre TBI). Also try 60% dark chocolate it works for me when I crave chocolate. I learned that it's milk chocolate or semi sweet that tastes like "sulfur" to me

I am 5 years post tbi. Came out of rehab with smell, taste, and hearing okay. Now, 5 years later, taste is just about gone. Docs said this would occur...maybe. Smell is apparently gone Christmas Eve services a guy threw up on row in front of us and I didn’t smell a thing. Only good thing to come from losing your smelling ability. Now my hearing is diminished on the trauma side . The docs have replied ‘sorry’. I will learn to adapt to texture. Hamburgers are still hamburgers regardless. Smell, wish I could smell baking bread. Hearing, well....I will just turn the TV up louder. Sh** happens. I’m alive.

I lost my sense of smell due to being beat with bats in the head and also shot in the head the doctor said my brain was unharmed by the bullet cause it missed but i still want to know if i will ever smell again

I received a hemorrhagic brain injury 3 years ago and I lost the ability to smell or taste but there was this weird chemical odor prevalent sometimes all day and whenever I ate.
So after a year of enduring no sense of taste or smell I was recommended frankincense, which when diffused, crosses the blood-brain barrier and helps re-establish synapse points. Within 3 months of diffusing frankincense and lavender I began to develop a sense of taste and smell again and the experience was much as a child experiences when encountering brand new flavors in their lives.
The sensation was weak at first but it began to develop stronger and a full year later I have achieved what I would consider close to a full palate again : a full spectrum of flavors and smells.
However, that noxious chemical odor persists at times and I noticed recently that it happens after the brain is jostled even slightly.
I wonder if that's the flavor of a cyst leaking into the brain and it hitting all of your blood vessels including your taste buds?

Could you please say how much/long/often you diffused? How many drops of frankincense you used per how much water? I am extremely interested and I have spent many hours researching your information. Now I just need details. Please elaborate. Thank you!

Thank you so much for this information... I'm going to try frankincense too. May I ask how you found about what to use? I like natural as much too and would like to know what natural things to use for taste, smell, vision, balance, thought. I would appreciate knowing where to find what things to use. I'm glad you're better!

I lost my sense of smell and taste following brain surgery for a TBI in March, 2014. Depression is my biggest challenge and would very much like to find some kind of support group. Does anyone know of research or support groups in central NC?

I lost my sense of smell many years ago cause of a accident. I can smell a bit but not perfume or stuff I wanna smell. I wish I could. One thing I dont miss smelling which is alright by me is someone's bad body odor or someone passing gas. At least I can't smell that. I can taste foods with no problem. Maybe someday it will return at least one can hope but if it doesn't it doesn't I've lived with it this long. It just sucks!!!

On April 2016, i had a TBI on a road accident, first few days i was unable to understand why it was smelling same for everything, the after a couple of days i came to know that i have lost my smelling sensation completely and i was able to smell something like preloaded smells in my brain which used to come and getting changes in a cycle i can remember there was four preloaded smells which was repeatedly coming and getting changed one after one and none of the smells were relevant to anything which was there or were in front of me even still now if i come across any strong odour or any dirty thing it smells like sprit....

I had a TBI back in July 2016. During my hospital stay, I was asked about my sense of smell and I would say, "Does my nose work?" then breathe in and say, "Yes". I literally didn't understand (nor was I ever tested) that they actually wanted to know if I could smell, not breathe. A few weeks later, my family complained about the smell of my running shoes and I quickly realized that I had no sense of smell. Soon after that, I noticed I was eating something that I previously had not liked. Smell impacts so much of your taste. I still have no sense of smell and was told that if it comes back, my doctor wants dibs on getting to write my story, as he's never heard of it happening. I can "taste" heat and texture, so I eat almost everything with hot spices and keep increasing the heat as I get used to the next level (jalapeno, habanero, ghost pepper, etc). I still order most of the same foods at restaurants, even though I can't experience them the same, because it's uncomfortable to be out with friends and family and simply order food to fill my hunger while they experiment with high-end dinners and new "chef's specials". I don't mind it, but it makes them uncomfortable, so I play along by not "under ordering".
I guess there are more of us out there than I thought. Stay safe, enjoy the other parts of your life and don't let this one hidden disability bring you down. Yes, I'm talking to myself there as well.

I also lost my sense of smell completely due to tbi in 2003. I can taste just fine which surprises everyone who asks. Once in a while I think I smell something but I know it's not actually happening. learned to live with it, compare it to drinking water. want to keep looking for a doctor that could give me a complete explanation of why they can't make it come back. Just really curious

I lost my sense of smell when I was 18 I'm now 61. I fell out the back of a pickup. In a coma 5 days they say I died a some point. When I'm sick it's like I smell a bad odor . I can smell or recognize rain . Chemicals I can notice them I've affect my nose strangely . When my kids smell smoke. I turn off the lights shine a flashlight to see if there's smoke . I have smoke detectors in all rooms. I do miss the smell of a woman- perfume. Also I've found that I can talk to people than get told by someone. How can you talk to them they smell bad. I believe that you use other senses to compensate and commonsense . Look around, listening, watch where you step. As far as food, two things. If you doubt if it's fresh or not nobody's around I can't tell by looking or feeling don't eat or drink it . And I can eat stuff now that I could not before because I can't smell it. And fake it. People will ask me to smell stuff. If you say you can't smell they don't believe you. So make them happy. Yes that smells good.

1 month ago today I suffered a concussion from a fall at home. I was unconscious for a few minutes and went to the ER. They did a CAT scan and said everything looked normal. Last week I realized I couldn't smell anything except for a strange nondescript phantom smell. This smell occurs a few times a day for a second or two. I've also started to experience a burning sensation on my tounge. Has anyone else experienced this?

Hi Joel. I also have a total loss of smell and terrible burning tongue, following a head injury. The injury was in September 2016 and the severity of burning has reduced slightly over time. I have not had much luck with doctors who are familiar with this side effect. Have you had any luck with minimizing the burning tongue?

Yes I fell and hit my head a year and a half ago. I can't smell anything at all. Taste has started to return but only sweet and hot and spicy foods. This week I noticed everything I eat burns my mouth! M&ms, pizza, cheese, bread! It's bms. Burning mouth syndrome. It's for real! I just googled it!

I had an accident 3 months ago and lost my sense of smell now I also experience a strange kind of smell that makes me more depressing I don't what it is , I just want to become as good I was before

I had a fall fractureing my skull and whiplash injury in 2012. In August 2017 I had a impact to underside of my chin again causing a mild whiplash injury

but seem now to have recovered some of my sense of smell.

Strong sweet odours I can now pick up like herbs and perfumes.

Im so pleased the pain of the neck injury doesn't hurt so much.

I wanted to share this info in case this may help others.

Could it be just scar tissue from first accident inhibiting olfactory glands working?

lost my sense of smell falling off a cab 4 Months ago. I dont know how to recover my nerve back . But tnx to jah i still smell bad things from a distance.

I lost my sense of smell after a TBI in 2013. The doctor asked me if I had any leakage from my nose that was of a grayish colour. I remembered that when I was in the hospital I felt like I had a cold but when I blew my nose the mucus was a grayish colour. She told me i that was the case then it might regain my sense of smell. I did eventually partially regain it but it took almost a year.

I also, because is a skull fracture in December of 2008 lost both my sense of taste & my sense of smell. The sense of taste came back in levels or degrees over the next few years. Sense of smell, that was & is another story. For at least a year or more I could smell nothing. Then chemicals, as in treated water. I could also smell skunks. But food burning on the stove, no. Today, for the first time in many years, I smelled food burning, recognized what it was & was able to get to it and correct the problem. I know it sounds silly to say "I thrilled! ", but I am! I also hope it continues to come back.

11 weeks ago I fell backwards and hit the back middle of my head on the hardwood floor. I don't know if I lost consciousness or not. I only remember waking up in my bed the next morning (I had set my alarm for work so I guess I was in my right mind at the time). I had a big very painful lump so I went to the ER. They did a CT scan and I had a concussion but they said everything would be alright in a couple weeks.

I realized while in the ER that I could not taste or smell at all. I told the Dr. and he said It will either come back in a few weeks or not at all. Since then I have regained about 50% of my former ability to taste but almost no smell at all. The weird thing is that everything smells the same (I can't identify this smell because I've never smelled it before). The best I can describe it is a sourdough type smell and when I say everything smells like this I mean everything. Yuck.

Most foods also taste like this smell even though I can actually taste other tastes along with it. Sorry, this is hard to describe. I read that in some cases a chiropractor can help to regain normal taste and smell ability. Has anyone tried this?. I'm in fear of never smelling again or tasting things normally as I am coming up on 3 months since the injury.

I have the exact same problem. Eveeything stinks and tastes like that awful smell. I have seizures after being beat by one of my patients. (I'm a nurse) and I had a huge episode of seizures one day and fell giving myself a brain bleed. I wish everything didn't smell like this awful strange smell I can't get rid of.

I filed from a motorcycle accident two years ago and I have the same symptoms plus Tinnitus in right ear. I visited many doctors in Germany and Paris. Answer: No treatment for this case and the body will recover by itself. They advise me to get multivitamin B and it’s good for nerve recovery. The happy thing this day is that I can smell and recognize the safron smell. Try it and will make you happy and give hope to back to you and every one.

I also have lost my smell sense in August 2007 in one of big car accident in India. Since then I am unable to smell anything. But I have find a way to live life like normal person.

On NYE this year I fell off a golf cart and hit my head. What a great start to 2017! Initially I was focused on my subdural hematoma and massive headaches. It wasn't until 3 weeks into my injury that I realized complete loss of smell. For a while I had hopes of regaining it back. Doctors told me 6 months after injury was my window to regain it. But sadly that time has come and gone. To wake up everyday with the same phantom smell in my head is a reality I never thought I would meet, but sadly it is there.I can't even describe the smell cause it is nothing I remember smelling. It isn't a pleasant smell. I try to talk to close friends and family about the struggles of being without smell but they fail to sympathize and I don't really blame them- they just can't comprehend that. The other day I got an email about halloween candles coming out (pumpkin spices I loved so much) and I just started to cry. Some days I am OK others I am scouring the internet for some miracle answer to fix this.

It is great to read everyone's story. See the same sadness and struggle associated with such an invisible "disability". To know I am not alone and to hear some of you guys got the smell back after years gives me true hope! Again Thank You for sharing.

I also fell off a golf cart! I have no smell or taste! The phantom smells are awful. I've been sick for two days because of them. It feels like no one knows what you're going through. People pass me things to smell all the time and i try and try with no results. Phantom smells need to go away for good!

January this year(2017)I fell off a semi truck flat bed trailer suffered a concussion. About 2 weeks later I realized I could not smell anything not even ammonia. Dr advised taking zinc that might help. I did for about 2 weeks. That was bad for me. Now I still can't smell and most everything I eat taste like I'm sucking on a old rusty lead pipe. Very frustrating. When I lost smell I also lost approximately 80% of my sense of taste. I wish you all luck in regaining your sense back!!!

I feel your pain on this one. October 1999 slipping on some carpeted stairs, fell on my back and my head bounced off 12/13 steps. 18 years only able to determine sweet spicy sour tastes. I found the best solution to get some satisfaction from eating was was eat foods with texture (breaded chicken fingers as an example get the soft and crunchy). Salty and then honey mustard or honey dill sauce for sweet. You are right on others not understanding or being able to relate. Why spend $40/$50 on a steak meal when there is no point and you'll be just as happy and full with a 13$ meal. People look down on what I order at a restaurant because it will be cheaper or wonder why I always order the same few things. It really makes you feel like an outsider and just feel like you don't belong because you can't enjoy and give opinions like everyone else without standing out and getting odd looks.

I have a co-worker that I work with. He slipped taking the garbage out at home and hit his head on the concrete. He was never unconscious. The next day he noticed he couldn't smell or taste. He went to the Dr. They did a cat scan and said everything looks normal. That was nine weeks ago. He still can't smell or taste so he did an MRI yesterday and they told him it was normal. Will he ever regain his taste and smell?

My son suffered a TBI July 2016. He has lost all ability to smell.
I am recovering from a back of my scull fracture and I haven't had my sense of smell for about three weeks I couldn't taste the first week. But recently iv been getting a little steel back but what I smell mostly which is a phantom smell is like a musky dust smell so I think that's normal I guess !
I also had a brain injury due to falling off of a horse many years ago. I was in a coma for a week and my left eye was fixed staring forward. My sense of smell had completely disappeared but my taste wasn't really effected oddly enough. My eye began to work again after 3 months but my sense of smell didn't come back for about 8 years. I can now smell some things but am unable to identify what they are unless I see what it is that I'm smelling. If people around me catch the scent of something in the air and comment on it, I never can smell what they are smelling lol it's pretty bizarre
I had a brain injury when I was 9 yrs old no sense of smell since

Hello! Interesting to read your storys. I'm from Sweden so My English spelling is great.

I lost My smell 12 years ago, in a cuncussion. I have heard that there are five tastes that you can taste with your tongue and 18,000 with your nose! So, even if the sense of smell are gone, you(I) can still taste if something is salty, sweet, sour, bitter or umami! The rest is imagination! I have always chosen to not be to sad for my loss... instead I find it like a challenge to combine spices, in my imagination, before I start cooking dinner... Do I need to say, I'm the best Cook in the neibourhood! Peter

Three years a go I fell down while playing soccer and hit the sand ground so hard with the back of my head. I didn't lose conscious but had a splitting headache and I ran to a hospital and check if I was so hurt. The doctor had me get scanned MRI and told my no massive damage to my brain. They said I am very fine but through time I realized that I have lost my complete sense of smell. I didn't know the trauma caused it. I went to the hospital again and saw the ENT doctor. He sadly told me that it wont come back again, and it was my saddest day. Ii still dont smell clearly but there certain things I smell even though it's not who they originaly smell. Hopefully one day it will show up out of the blue,

"we never Know the favors the God bestowed us until we lose them"

Reading your comments make me want to cry. Unless you experience loss of smell among other loss due to TBI you simply can not understand. My injury was 6 years ago. The only thing I could smell was cigarette smoke. And believe it or not it was a 100 times worse than reality. It was so weird. Everything I hate tasted like bug spray for months. It is just within the past few months that I've regained a little bit of change. It's usually very strong or sweet smells. I look like a kid in a candy store when I hug someone and smell their cologne. I want to grab them and not let go. Lol! I don't believe anything I smell is actually accurate. But it's so lovely to even experience a little. I now prefer very spicy or rich foods. I still have hearing loss and 24/7 ringing among a few other weird things that linger with us. But I feel blessed to have a positive outcome. Thank you for a bit of common ground as you shared your experiences. I wish you all well.
I was prescribed methadone for a Drug habit I had which led me to suicide. I jumped off a bridge onto a road below. I ended up with brain damage and lost my scent and some taste. I can smell nothing now, nothing. It upsets me because I remember beautiful scents that I no longer can. I can't tell if I smell like body odor and have to ask my father to tell me if I do. I still buy and wear parfume. I know, "why if u can't smell"? I do it to smell nice for others. It's a sad disorder to have in life so be happy that you can still smell the sweet outdoors!

Don't loose hope! I posted on November 30th. Now, over nine months into this, i started to smell some stuff. Sometimes only whiffs or really faint smells, but i see some progress. A few things i can smell always when i am in their presence, some stuff really faint and even the whiffs are getting longer and longer. 

I was in a horse accident in 2008 that led to major brain injury and hospital time. I cracked the left side of my skull, with most of the internal brain injury on the right side of my brain. I had many side effects such as memory loss, inability to spell basic words correctly, awful headaches, anger, and loss of taste and smell. I remember that my taste and smell were nonexistent for a good 6 months, and the doctors told me that it would never return. A little after 6 months I started to regain some taste, but it wasn't correct from what I remembered. Anything tomato based tasted bitter and awful, artificial or actual fruit tasted rotten, pepsi tasted like bile. The list goes on. I remember thinking how cruel it was to get my taste back wrong, and no smell at all. I was so angry. But about a year after that I was hauling hay and got a wiff of it, and smelled the hay for the first time in over a year. Since then my taste and smell slowly returned to almost normal, with a few exceptions. My smell still goes away for brief periods of time, but has always returned. In the recent years though, I've realized that I get 1 specific phantom smell, which is so strange because I've only ever heard of phantom smells with complete loss of smell. And it's the worst! All I smell for at least a day is second hand cigarette smoke.
Anyways, all that aside, has anyone ever run into other issues that were caused during the same time as your brain injury that went undiagnosed? I recently went to a doctor for blood work and she mentioned that there is a part of the brain located near the parietal lobe that can be damaged at the same time, that effects things that present themselves like thyroid issues. Such as hair loss, fatigue, infertility, weight loss or gain. I can't remember what it was called though! Has anyone else experienced this??

Hey, I recently had a similar injury, did you ever figure out why we lost our smell? Like was it the olfactory nerves or something else? Glad to hear you're doing better, I hope to make a similar recovery as well.

If you Google ‘cribriform plate’ you will see the section of the brain that gets damaged when we hit our head. This sits just above the nose and is a piece of bone like a plate with holes in it. The olfactory bulb sits above. The tiny hair like nerve filaments grow through the holes - these are the smell receivers. When we hit our heads hard enough the brain literally bounces off the inside of the skull and the movement can cut off these filaments, like a lawn mower. Or the filaments can be bruised, stretched or damaged. Nerves grow back very slowly. Some people may never regrow their olfactory nerves. Others can repair from being stretched or bruised.

Hey all, 4 years after my TBI, my smelling is like 80% back more or less. Like most, hit my head very hard (April 2013) was in intense care, had to get the right side off my skull off for almost a month cuz of the brain swelling that was gonna take place). I wasn't able to smell coffee at all or perfume/deodorant or anything really. About a year+ i noticed i can KINDA smell some stuff, as time went by it kept improving. I asked one of the docs and she told me that there's these little connection in the head, that with the impact they can either tear off or get stretched/damaged. So if after a while u can KINDA smell, they might only be damaged and will come back with time :)

My husband suffered a brain injury may 2016, he hit his head on tile floor at hospital while we there taking my dad off life support . It was one night mare after another. He also lost his smell and most of his taste, he also has 24/7 ringing in his ears. Thats bad but very minimal considering doctors said he only had a 10% chance to live through surgery and after surgery told me they didn't see him making a much of a recovery. It's been over a year now and a lot of Dr visits and occasionally in the recent months he has smelled something. I noticed it has been strong odors, for instance, we went to dirt track races last week and all of a sudden he said I smell racing fuel. I feel bad for him and I know it bothers him some but for the most part he does ok with it. When his injury first happened doctors tried to get me to put him in a nursing home, he couldn't talk, couldn't walk, couldn't swallow, couldn't move his right side at all. I took him home and researched and basically did therapy myself ( he didn't have insurance) other than the few weeks of physical recab he got after myself and him got him walking with a walker. He has since totally recovered other than smell, ears ringing, and vision is a little worse than prior to injury. I am grateful for what he has overcome and so is he. We try to focus on that as much as possible, he is alive and for the most part healthy. I could have lost my dad and my husband all in one night, so grateful I didn't but I sure do miss my dad. I hope this helps someone and I do have hope that those things will continue to get better but if he doesn't recover any more than he is right now, God has truly blessed us. All are in our prayers

I posted in November. Now it's almost one year post accident and the short whiffs of smell that started about three months post accident are now longer. I notice I can actually pick up a few smells/ flavours. How long did it take for you to get to the 80%?

I had a traumatic brain injury from falling 20ft onto my head in April 2009. That caused me to damage nerves in my brain. I lost my vision in my right eye and my smell and it caused me to have epilepsy. It took a while for me to get used to lose sight in my eye, but I have good vision in my left eye so it didn't bother me too much, I was more upset at losing my smell. I was told that my smell wouldn't come back if it hasn't come back within the first six months and it didn't so I just had to accept that and get used to it. I did still have some taste though so that was good, it was just a bit weaker. I'm saying was instead of is because my smell happened to come back seven years later in 2016. It was the best day of my life!!! My nose did pick and choose what it could and couldn't in the beginning, but after some time my sense of smell has become very good. It has made me appreciate smelling things so much. I am always smiling to myself when I can smell things, especially when I have smelt things for the first time that I haven't smelt since I lost it. So if anyone who is reading this has lost their smell from a head injury, then don't give up hope in ever getting it back completely, it could still come back after six months, it did for me anyway, so I'm sure it could for other people to.

I had an accident at 2 december 2005 i had 14 hamrages but not a single stich, i was in hospital for 35 days, for 7 days in coma but since almost 15 years have passed i cant still recognize smell , i need help for this......

Thank you for giving me some inspiration. I too have lost my sense of smell... It's been only months now... But you give me hope.

Worst thing that happened to my life. 2 months till now since I hit my head and I can't smell a thing. It is a living hell to wake up everyday and can't smell a thing. I would rather die and not live like this the rest of my life. What an unhappy low quality life due to this stupid Anosmia.

Hang in there! So many of us are waiting, hopeful.... I love ice cream. The only sensations I feel are cold and creamy. I couldn't even begin to tell you if it was made of old tires, or strawberries. I read the label (so I know!), and try to comfort my body with a treat now and then. Since my TBI, I have lost about a pound a day. Not healthy. Conversely, I have to eat a healthy diet. A challenge? Yes! Do I still have hope? Yes! Do I believe that I will make a full recovery? No. Just hopeful. Let's love what we still have. For others, it is much worse. Who would think we are "the lucky ones?"

I'm so sorry this happened. I hope that you are able to find some peace surrounding this. There is a great documentary called The Connection you can watch at

My friend's wife hit her head about a month ago and lost her smell and taste so researching for them. What I do know is that there can be peace and acceptance for unfortunate events. Happiness can be found again. I believe the information in The Connection will help you. If you can get into the relaxation response regularly, it will help bring down any inflammation in your body and heal on a deep physical and mental level.

I wish you the best of luck and I hope for your full recovery and if not for your peace through acceptance and maybe meditation will help you, it helped me to be more peaceful and accepting of the present.

Be well.