Head & Traumatic Brain Injury Community
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604197 tn?1292308636

Head trauma causes loss of smell/taste

I'm 17 years of age and recently (2 months ago) had an accident that has resulted in the loss of my sense of smell and taste. I was at a lake, swinging on a rope into the water but lost my grip and wnet head first down a cliff of rocks and roots. I landed in the water but had hit the back of my head (near the crown, at the top) splitting my head open and fracturing my skull (3-4 inches). The neurologists told me I had a severe concussion as well as contusions (bruising) near the front of my brain where I damaged the nerve endings. I also have a herniated disc located in my lower back which has pinched my sciatic nerve running to my left leg.

Since the fall I have experienced several changes. The main concern I have months later is my senses. I understand the brain is complex but I feel as though I haven't recieved satisfying answers from my doctors. My doctor gave me a 3-4 month time frame to see improvements with my senses. He said I could get my taste back slightly, fully or not at all, same goes for my smell. I could get both back, one or none. To date, I have not experienced improvement with taste but recently I have been noticing (for about 2 days now) my nose is sensitive and feels as though it's tingling and I constantly smell mild "burning" so to speak. I was just wondering if this is a positive notion toward recovery or common in all patients who suffer from losing their sense of smell. Is it likely I will return to normal within my lifetime?

Also, if anyone has ever heard of anyone losing their senses after head trauma and regaining/not regaining them. Please comment, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Thanks greatly!
215 Responses
Avatar universal
I just wanted to comment and I am not a doctor just a Mom. My son suffered a TBI and one of first questions when he woke up was did he feel like he could smell foods etc. These senses (smell and taste) in his case seemed to be heighten - he said he could smell things that we couldn't or when he tasted something it was very salty to him. One year out these seem to have settled down - he doesn't complain that things taste salty anymore and when asked by the doctors he says that his sense of smell is normal again. From what I read or have been told I do think this is common. I would also throw out any time frame that they give you.

Good Luck in your recovery - I know it is a long and difficult road you are on - we are walking it with our 15 year old son.
563773 tn?1374250139

After a brain injury, people may experience a loss of taste and smell which is called anosmia. This usually occurs without actually damaging the nose or tongue themselves.
When a person sustains a brain injury its impossible to predict how much they will recover and how long it will take. There is no formula to tell you which results are permanent and which are temporary.

If the sensory cortex in the brain has been bruised because of your injury, a gradual recovery of sensation may be possible. If the area has been torn, it is unlikely to return to normal functioning.

Eat a hot meal with a cold salad for different temperature experiences. Try spicy food from Eastern cuisines that cause sensations on the tongue. The object is to take some time to make meals interesting and fun, so it is still appealing to eat and feel satisfied afterwards.http://braininjury.org.au/portal/fact-sheets/anosmia---losing-your-sense-of-smell---fact-sheet.html

You may also need to take some extra steps to become safety conscious. Install plenty of smoke detectors if you can’t smell smoke in the house. Switch to electricity instead of gas. Read labels carefully in case you are using strong chemicals that need ventilation.

Hope it helps.Take care and God bless.
Avatar universal
Hi Brittany - I was very interested to read your posting as I am suffering in a similar way.  I had my head injury 9 weeks ago and over the last week have just started to 'smell' a constant sweet burning smell.  This odour is obviosly not there and dissappears when I inhale deeply for a few moments.  I was wondering if your smell had returned or improved?  No one will tell me anything definate and it's beginning to depress me.  
Avatar universal
I had a brain injury on Sept 13th and at first I lost my sense of taste and smell and then after about 2 weeks it mostly came back though things tasted odd at time. Like when I ate orange chicken it tasted like vinegar.  Now almost 2 months later I can't get theis sweet smokey taste out of my mouth and the smell is everywhere and it seems worse when I eat meat or cooked veggies.  It is driving me crazy. It seems to be getting worse but I don't have another Dr appt until Dec 18th.  If you find out anything let me know.  
Avatar universal
I experienced a head injury in January of this year and still do not have any sense of smell or taste.  I can taste sweet and salt by not flavors.  I do get the occassional sense of smell (burning and other odd odors) but there is nothing there to smell and it goes away.  I went back to dr. and he told me that probably the way things are right now is the way they probably will be for me.  He said there is the possibility that the fall I had caused a tear in nerves for my sense of smell.  It is very difficult at times.  The not knowing and continuing to have no sense of smell or taste is very depressing at times.  But, when I find myself getting down I try to remember that things could have been much worse or even fatal.  Keep you chin up.
Avatar universal
Hi, Brittany. I read though the posts and it seems a lot of folks are experiencing similar effects from TBI. I took a tumble from a horse in July and suffered a concussion and a brain bleed. Now -- you guessed it -- no sense of smell or taste. My neurologist tells me what others are being told: these senses may improve or they may not. And I, too, get discouraged. It's true things could be worse. There's a positive thought to grasp. My comment and question for everyone is exactly what other smell or taste sensations are some of us going through? I have had extended bouts of an odd metallic/citrusy flavor which is now evolving into a constant taste of soap! Like I'm chewing on a bar of Safeguard or something. It is unremitting and, frankly, nauseating. It would be nice to find some medical research that suggests some way to mask this -- or something!
Avatar universal
So I talked to my Dr again and they are sending me to the Ears nose and throat dr.  Not sure what that has to do with my brain and my problems maybe they are just trying to rule out other problems.  

Mine scares me a little, I can smell a little and taste a little but that sweet smokey smell is what is most common except when I eat raw fruit, raw veggies, and sweets.  I am worried I might not smell a gas leak or something.
604197 tn?1292308636
Thanks so much for all the posting.
It's been 4 months since the fall and lost of MRI's later, and I've still got hope.
I have experienced one taste incident where I regained flavour while sucking on a sour candy. It was brief but its the most I have experienced.
Now, from time to time I get the "smokey" sensation described. It comes and goes periodically. Sometimes just for a day, or maybe even a few.
The Docs haven't any way of letting me know about regaining it. The bruising is still present in my brain so its still a waiting game. The Doctors have warned me to visit immediately if I experience an overpowering smell of smoke, or metallic. In my case, this could sense something gone wrong.
Good luck to everyone...... don't lose faith!
Avatar universal
I myself am going through the same dilimma.  I was in a motorcycle accident in July and ---from what I am told, as I remember nothing--- was that I landed on my head.  I recieved serious head trama and have also lost or altered my sense of taste and smell.  Everything tastes one either sweet, like onion dip, or like pure grease.  It has been VERY discouraging and frustrating!  My nerologist has told me the same as your doctor has told you---may came back my not.  He told me my receptors were most likely severed do to the accident and they may or may not grow back.  I asked about any type of physical therapy to try to reprogram my brain and he said there was nothing I could do.  He said to give a year and that if it doesnt return that it most likely will not.
I like some of you should be thankful since they did have to bring me back from beyond and this is my only current problem with the exception of the pain from the still fractured ribs. But with that said it is still a frustration.  I have already lost 15 pounds and can not lose anymore since I am too thin.  But I wanted to thank everyone that has posted to this since it shows me that I am not crazy and others are suffing through the same thing and i am not alone.  Good luck to everyone and I hope and pray we will all regain our senses sooner than later.
Avatar universal
Hi Britany,

I was in a motor vehicle accident almost 4 years ago. I now have all my senses back, but I do remember when I was in the hospital smelling a burnt smell. I don't remember anything about the accident or the month following the accident when I was in the hospital. I was told that I answered questions and it was hard for people to believe that I couldn't remember any of it, but it was like I just woke up one day and I was in the hospital with no memory of why I was there. I had strange dreams and I couldn't distinguish between what was real and what was a dream. They had me on alot of strong pain meds, so I attribute some of it to that. For awhile, things hurt my ears, like anything high pitched. I had to turn the treble way down on the radio in my car. Also the sound of a person coughing hurt my ears too. Has anyone else had experiences like mine?
604197 tn?1292308636
I'm so glad your senses returned!
When I fractured my skull, the blood from my cranium "collected" behind my left ear for a month or so. It was blue and black behind my ear and down my head. I also had a lot of trouble hearing from my left ear, because the blood was pressuring my ear drum.
Sometimes my ears ring, I'm not sure if that has anything to do with the treble level on the radio or anything.
Avatar universal
At least you are young. I am told the younger you are the easier it is for you to heal and regain things from a head injury. I was 43 when my accident occurred. I will probably not ever be the same again. I suffer from dizziness and loss of balance, loss of coordination and a tremor in my right hand whenever I try to write, eat or do anything that involves fine motor skills. But I still see small improvements after 4 yrs. so don't ever give up. Its a long road to recovery and I'm much better off than I was at first. I had 3 basal skull fractures and I had a blood clot in my left ear and I couldn't hear out of it for awhile. When they finally discovered it and took it out (it hurt like hell!) I could hear out of that ear again. I still experience the ringing, but its not as bad as it was, and I have some slight hearing loss in my left ear.
Avatar universal
My brother is suffering from a TBI as we speak he to has a problem with taste and smell.  I have read that some meds can cause this.  Is anybody with these problems still on meds of any kind????
I hope and pray that all of you will recover to the fullest extent.  It is a very tough and trying time.
Avatar universal
i was in a car accident 4 weeks ago and hit my head pretty good almost two weeks after that my taste and smell started to change and slowly wen away its not gone toally just everything tastes and smells the same its a terrible allmost like gasoline taste and smell is thisthe same thing every body talks aout that most likely wont change
722422 tn?1230703652
it has been 15 years after my accident and i hope to share one thing i have learned from my accident. COPING skills....

life is not the same nor will it ever be.. somedays will be better then others.. time is what it took for me and i had to learn to cope because i cried and complained and no one cared. I have been to many things and still cope with many new issuses that come up.

My accident i was thrown from a truck inmilitary and rolled like a rag doll wheni was ejected. i had my helmet on and i hemmoraged my brain in the right occpical lobe and left frontal lobe and the falax and teritenium top of head.

i shattered my right radial head and fracture my humurs head, broke six bones in right ankle and fractured my L5 vertabrea.

due to many injuries some pains were worse then others as they lessend the others flared up. after many meds and problems i had to find other ways. i lost all memories of my life. and now adays idont have time to worry about that i work on haveing a better day then yesterday learn to cope and move on. it is not easy and it is not fair but it is my life and i am gonna smile everyday i am alive. 15 years ago i was not supposed to be here then 3 years later another accident from problem of the first one i should not be here and yet i am. i had a lot of problems and learned many solutions.

i can only hope you have faith and find the silver lining in the dark cloud..

Avatar universal
I am surprised to see so many people sharing the same Case.
I am Currently Suffering from similar symptoms as you (brittanyf). I have absolutely no sense of Smell what so ever, and only recently started to taste this awful taste in my mouth that does not seem to fad, I can’t explain the taste it is like nothing I have tasted before, you could say it resembles the taste of Blood or metal, but no matter how many times I brush my teeth it does not seem to ware off.

The Cause of this was an accident I had in an early Morning on (03.dec.2008). I was quite fortunate to survive such a terrible wreck while traveling at 320km’s losing control. Due to this accident I have suffered a Fractured skull, since the car disintegrated into 3 large parts, and caught fire, I am not sure where my head hit. But I injured the back of my head, exactly where Brittany described her injury. I was unconscious for 3 days & 8 days after regaining consciousness I discharged my self from hospital because they where doing a terrible job.

I am a very Physically Fit & Healthy Male, I would appreciate any new or points on my current condition if you need more information feel free to ask.
Avatar universal
Hi Brittany and everyone else who posted comments on loss of smell.  I had a brain injury that supposedly severed my olfactory nerve that took my sense of smell.  It has been 10 years and the neurologist originally told me there could be a chance it would come back but over a period of a few months to a year, if it did not come back then it probably would not.  I cannot tell if something is burning, and cleaning chemicals/sprays are a nightmare as I learned to be very careful when cleaning and inhaling the fumes after I got a few respiratory infections.  I did a great deal of research after the head injury and there was not much info out there.  However, that was 10 years ago and a lot has changed.  I can taste sweet, sour and definitely salt which can seem overwhelming if I feel something is too salty..I don't eat it.   I've definitely adjusted to the more spicy way of life.  The one thing I can offer, is that my neurologist told me, (and I've held on to these words for 10 years), is that if there ever comes a time they can make paralyzed people walk with some type of nerve regeneration, then I may have a chance to smell again.  I'm hoping that time may come in the form of the recently signed by the Federal Govt of stem cell research.   I wish you all the best, and reiterate that medical technology is changing rapidly....so don't give up hope.   Terry
873655 tn?1240442358
Hello Brittany and everyone else,
I also lost my sense of smell when I was only 13 years old. Someone I knew not very well came over on the last day of school and asked me if I would like to go for a ride on her horse. Well I thought, what could it hurt? The only thing I remember is telling my sister that I would just go up the street. But the end result was, we ended up going for a ride in the hills a few blocks away. The horse got spooked or something and I was bucked off. The back of my head hit a rock, which left me unconscious. I ended up in the hospital with a separated brain. The doctors told my parents that I would either die or live like a vegetable for the rest of my life. Fortunately I survived, but I did lose my sense of smell and it was and still is hard to deal with. It has been 33 years and I still cannot smell. The frustrating thing is what people say when you tell them that you cannot smell. They tell me that I am lucky! Or they assume that I just cant smell that well. It is a permanent thing. I do not smell ever. Their are times when I might think of something, that I remember use to smell good to me. And it is almost like I can smell it. But it is not there. But all I have to say....is if anyone out there is reading this that does have a sense of smell. You are lucky not me. You wake up on a beautiful spring morning and smell breakfast cooking and hot coffee brewing. Or maybe have a yummy donut with it. You go outside and smell the fresh clean air and the pretty flowers blooming right there in your front lawn. When you hug your signifacant other, the one you love. She or he, has a scent and that draws you near. These are just a few things that you get to enjoy, please admire and appreciate them always. Just as I will appreciate that I can still feel, see,hear, taste and I can talk and function. I thank god for this. Have a good day.
Avatar universal
I was in a bad car accident where i was somehow thrown from the car at MPH. I though most of the problem was the horrible road rash on my back. I didn't realize how hard I hit the back of my head. I only suffered 3 hairline fractures and they were going to do surgery, but at the last minute for some reason didn't. It has only been about 6 months, but I can't smell anything and can only taste salt or sugar. I had to test everything just to see if I could taste something. I can't taste it in food though. The thing is when I left the hospital I COULD TASTE AND SMELL I know they sent me home to soon, and probably should have done the surgery. I don't know if I can live the rest of my life this way. I have only been going through this for months and you have for years. How do you do it? I cry almost everyday. I know it hurts my girls to see me like this. I can't even go outside for more than 10 minutes with out sunglasses or I will get a headache that will put me back in the ER. I haven't seen a neurologist yet I am working on it. I am just scared. I can live without tasting I'm use to that its the smelling I can never get use to it.. I am sorry for what you have gone through. I still can't say "well at least I'm alive" cause part of me is dead. Well take care, and I hope to hear back from you!
Avatar universal
i lost my smelling abilty n it never came back i coupe with the lose its been a year in a half scene then and i still cant smell its not that bad til some one wants u 2 smell some thing cause they forgot lol
Avatar universal
I also had an unexpected head injury.  I was at my daughter's school to put in some volunteer time.  It was a very windy day.  The semitruck was sitting in front of the school loaded with frozen cookie dough.  The doors were open off the back of the truck and hooked so that we could unload the boxes.  One of the doors swung around and struck me in the head as I was getting my first box off the truck.  I don't remember anything except waking up in a hospital several days later.  Had dizziness, memory problems, no smell, little taste, and hearing problems in the left ear.  Over 6 months later now and all I compain about is not having any smell and very little taste.  Just about a month or so ago I noticed I started smelling an unusual smell (not pleasant smell that's for sure).  I noticed I could smell this same smell with about anything that should smell but it's always that same smell.  I started to taste that smell too in some foods.  I use to love chocolate and peanut butter.  They are now my two worst foods to eat.  All I can say is I know I can live just fine this way for the rest of my life if I have to.  I sure am going to miss the smell of everything!!  I even miss the smell of my children and my husband.  I never thought I would be saying that.  I help myself get through this by enjoying the fact that I can still see and hear them.  Both of which are far more important to me.  The truth is the doctors don't tell us much about our sense problems because they don't know much about how our senses work.  I have been told I should not totally rule out getting my smell back until after 4 years or so.  There have been many who have had to wait that long.  It is nice to know I am not alone with these difficulties.  I will pray for all of us that it might return someday.  What a wonderful gift it would be.  Susan  
914597 tn?1243081999
i had an accident i fell off a the bike on oct 07. i was a pillion rider, on my way to coll.. and i actually didn feel i wud have an acc.. there was a car parked.. it  was jus a gap of few sec to enter my coll but somebody inside the car did not see as to who was approachin.. n her stupid carelessness made ME pay a heavy price.. she is elsewhere without a slightest trace of what trauma im goin through.. m dyin each day without my sense of smell..it really hurts. so on tat ill fated day she opened the car door i was sittin on one side of the bike.. i cud see tat i was to hurt myself, i thought i wud have a bad scratch or hurt my leg.. but wat happened was really the other way around.. i actually didn knw wat happened then i fainted.. regained my consciousness for a min in between .. i remember people tryin to lift me up and tryin to take me to the hospital.. again i fainted.. whn i opened my eyes i was in my coll wit my frnds n lecturer surroundin me.. my parents arrived by then.. took me to the hosp.. the doc checked me found me normal.. coz i didn vomiit either n sent me home.. as soon as i tried to sleep at my place i started to vomit.. was taken back to hosp.. had a scan done coz i had hurted my head.. the result was blood clot.. stayed for a day at the hosp.. with three bottles of glucoses given to me.. when i came home i realised i lost me sense of smell.. my neuro n ent told tat it had to come naturally..today it is a yr and 7 months.. sometimes when i see somethin i feel i can smell but i knw its not real bcoz i knw how those things smell..sometimes i get some sweet odour but i knw it isin true.. m nt able to figure out wats happenin... n m still waitin with a hope tat ill be back to normal n regain my senses.. but u knw wat it really hurts when i feel incapable of smellin.. its only when u loose somethin u realise its worth.. when i say this to people tat i cant smell it seems trivial to them.. and y wud they feel they do not knw how it hurts.. i was mad of perfumes i feel so depressed now.. nobody seems to understand hw it feels.. but i realise hw lucky all those people are..i jus pray nw.. tat ill also be able to enjoy the sweet smell of life someday.. i keep up the hope thinkin tat there are so many people out there tat suffer much more than me.. so u people too don loose hope..but one thing tat still hurts me is tat tat gal in the car didn even take an effort to find me in coll n apologise.. she dosen even knw wat m goin through jus bcoz of a silly mistake by her..
Avatar universal
I suffered a head and lower back injury from a fall in April of 2007 while building the new US Embassy in Bagdad Iraq. I had a skull fracture accompanied by internal bleding of the head and brain for about two weeks. Blood came out of my ears, nose, and mouth for about the same amount of time. The Military Hospital only kept me overnight,primarily to make sure that I didn't go into a comma, then released me with 10 days bedrest to recover in my living quarters. I can't blame the US Military, as those young men loosing arms and legs and lives certainly needed the bed space more than I did. It seemed that I had a partial sense of smell and taste for a few days after the fall/head trauma, and then after that I seemed to have lost everything. I almost can say that I have experienced almost the exact range of post accident symptoms that almost each and everyone of the brain and head injury community has since my accident. It's hard at times not to be able to enjoy those tastes and smells that I previously took for granted for so many years. Don't I pray to God for each and everyone of us that we all will regain these senses again in the near future. I don't really know who to seek out in the medical field for help in this matter. When I came back to the States from Iraq I saw two neurologists and both said they didn't know how to treat this problem. I would think that if certain nerves were severed or injured that others would step up to take their place, especially involving taste and smell,with the miraculous healing potential of the human body. AS greatly needed as these senses are you would just think that by now that the medical community would have figured out ways to bring these senses back to us, using the natural healing power of the human body. If anyone out there has had success regaining these senses could you please send us the info and the doctors names and no.'s who are helping you. I've tried some accupunture as well and some century's old herbs and teas from some ancient Chineese herbaligist in Chinatown N.Y.C. and that hasn't helped either. Thanks for listening. Take care and God Bless. S/Y Greg Wells   ***@****   (586)286-6378
Avatar universal
I too had a brain injury in 1996 and awhile after the injury I noticed that I lost my sense of smell and taste. I was also told that there was nothing that can be done. So I moved on and just dealt with it and everytime someone would say smell this, I just kept smelling things and looking for any kind of indication, hoping for something, but everytime there was nothing.   My sense of taste did start to return first  very slowly after that started then my sense of smell returned.  Im not going to smooth it over for you, it was a very long process but within the last 5 - 7 years my taste started to come back more and more and with my sense of smell is almost to normal, however it has been 13 years since my accident.  Just recently I went back to college and decided to do a essay on brain injurys and was looking for information (which is how I found this site!).  There is so much information on the net its almost scary.  I have dealt with other things in the past such as clumbsiness, memory issues and many other things but I never connected my injury to any of that until I started my research.  It is amazing on what you can miss if you dont have it, however, I decided early on that I was not going to dwell on what I don't have and dwell on what I still had and I was as lucky as you are to still be here!
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