Hello all. My name is Robert S. Lancaster. I was one of the moderators at The
Congenital Anosmia Forums (www.Anosmia.net) before it got shut down in 2008.
I'm a 53-year-old man, living in Salem, Oregon with my wife Susan.
What follows is a post I created on another, non-anosmia-themed forum, to
explain to those there about my anosmia.
I am posting it here to get the reactions of fellow anosmics.
I am congenitally anosmic. This means I was born without a sense of smell. I have
not smelled anuthing in my life. Ever.
Here is a FAQ, based on the usual questions I am asked when a person learns
this about me:
========== FAQ ==========
Q: You can't smell ANYTHING?
A: No, I can't.
Q: What about perfume?
A: No. nothing.
[b]Q: Dog poop?
A: Nothing. Not. a. thing!
(This sometimes goes on and on, with the questioner listing what are, evidently,
fouler and fouler smelling things,
with them usually ending with something like
Q: What about a broken sewer line?
There have been times when people have stuck something under my nose saying
"This smells so bad you have to be able to smell it!!"
I wonder if these people ever place, say, an awful painting in front of a blind
person and say "This is so ugly you have to be able to see it!!"
Q: What about smelling salts?
A: Oddly enough, you really don't "smell" smelling salts. it is a fume which is not
sensed by your olfactory (smelling) senses, but by centers higher up in the brain.
So I will react to smelling salts, but no, I don't smell them. Neither do you, as I
Q: So then you cannot taste either, right?
A: wrong. taste and smell are two different senses.
Taste consists of
Q: What is Umami?
A: It is best described as "Meaty" or "Savory." It is the taste of MSG. Anyway, you
do not need a sense of smell to
taste Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty or Umami. For instance, even if your nose was so
stuffed up you couldn't smell anything, you could still taste the difference between
a spoonful of sugar and a spoonful of salt, couldn't you?
Q: Yes, but what about...
A: The thing is, you probably think that a person needs a sense of smell to taste
things because things taste very different to you when you have a stuffed-up nose,
Q: They do! So why...
A: you are confusing Taste with Flavor.
A: Taste, again, consists of Sweet, Sour, Bitter, Salty and ...
A: UMami. right.
Q: So what is "Flavor?"
A: The Flavor of food consists of its
Taste (Sweet, Sour, etc.),
Texture (wet/dry, crunchy/soggy, smooth/lumpy, etc.) and
And, you have roughly a thousand times more olfactory (smelling) sensors than
you do taste buds, so Aroma plays a
HUGE role in flavor to you.
So, while my sense of Taste is as good as yours - maybe better - My
appreciation of Flavor is severely
blunted compared to yours.
Q: What did you mean, your sense of taste may be better than mine?
A: May be. You've heard it said that blind people sometimes develop more
accute hearing to compensate?
Q: Yes, but...
A: Well, that may be an Urban Legend perpetrated by popular culture, but if there
is any truth to it, it seems feasible that an anosmic person might compensate for
their lack of a sense of smell by developing a keener sense of taste. I know of no
studies done on this though.
Q: When/How did you learn you were missing your sense of smell?
A: typed in a long answer but lost it. will retype it later.
Forumites: any questions? I will be glad to answer them.
I didn't even know the word for the condition until around 2000, when I did a web
search for "no sense of smell" and found anosmia web sites. One which I found
was The Congenital Anosmia Forums (anosmia.net). Not only did I now know the
word for what I had, but I found a whole community of others who had the same
condition! I had never met another congenital anosmic, and it was fascinating to
read their stories, many similar to my own. I ended up being a moderator there,
and was until the site shut down for reasons unknown to me while I was in the
hospital following my stroke.