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What it's like to have no sense of taste or smell

Christophe Haubursin is a senior producer for the Vox video team. Since joining the team in 2016, he has produced for Vox’s YouTube channel and Emmy-nominated shows Glad You Asked and Explained.

As little as we hear about them, taste and smell disorders affect a lot of people in the US, about 10 to 15 million by some estimates. They seem like easier senses to lose, compared to sight and hearing, but these complications put people at risk of consuming spoiled food and breathing poisonous gases without knowing it.


There are variations based on the severity of the condition: hyposmia is a reduced ability to smell, parosmia is an inability to properly identify natural smells, and anosmia is the complete loss of smell. Similar names apply to taste loss, as well.

These disorders have many different causes, including head injuries, smoking, and nasal medication intake, so treatment is highly individualized.


It’s the kind of thing that isn't often taken seriously by doctors, especially given the lack of clear methods for treatment. Dr. Robert Henkin’s DC clinic is one of the few designated treatment centers in the US. His process involves using steroid medication to stimulate tongue receptors back into action — but it’s a pioneering methodology that doesn’t always lead to permanent results.

Check out our video above to find out what it's like to live with a taste or smell disorder.