Living with smell and taste disorders

I recently met with Helen from Fifth Sense, a charity created to support people who are affected by smell and taste disorders.

Significant numbers of people in the UK are affected by a smell and taste disorder that impacts their physical and mental health, wellbeing, and safety. 1 in 4 people over the age of 65 could have impaired sense of smell and taste. Many cognitive disorders can also lead to smell and taste disorders and up to one million people may still be affected by smell disorders due to Long Covid. With such a high prevalence, it is perhaps surprising that loss of these particular senses is talked about much less than others.

Fifth Sense was set up in 2012 with the sole aim of transforming the lives of those affected by smell and taste disorders. Fifth Sense provides information and direct support to individuals and families affected by these conditions and works to improve knowledge and understanding amongst professionals through education and training.

Their work covers three areas-

  • Support
  • Education
  • Research

The vision at Fifth Sense is to transform society’s understanding of the importance of the senses of smell and taste. They want recognition of Olfactory Dysfunction as a long-term condition.

Helen said, ‘Imagine the impact on someone’s wellbeing of not being able to enjoy food and drink, to “smell the roses,” or their partner or children. This can have a significant effect on health and wellbeing, which is supported by the fact that 61% of our members have experienced depression and anxiety.’

Safety, too, is impacted by smell and taste disorders. Helen continued, ‘Imagine not being able to smell smoke from fire, gas leaks, or food that has gone off. Think about the safeguarding concerns this could raise. 85% of our members fear exposure to danger such as gas or spoiled foods.’

Fifth Sense not only supports individuals and their families who are affected by smell and taste disorders but is also offering free information sessions to help organisations better understand the impact that smell and taste disorders can have on people’s health, wellbeing and safety to ensure that people affected by these hidden, under-recognised sensory impairments are given the support they need.

If you would like to discuss the support Fifth Sense can offer you or your organization, please contact Helen at [email protected]

If you would like to access support or information around any of the issues mentioned in this blog, give the Healthwatch Essex Information & Guidance Service a call on 0300 500 1895, email [email protected] or text/WhatsApp on 07712 395398.

Sharon Westfield De Cortez, Information and Guidance Manager