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Life without taste and smell

Posted in: Bicycle Accidents Head and Brain Injuries Personal Injury 

On 20 July 2010, double Olympic gold medalist James Cracknell sustained a brain injury after being hit by a petrol tanker on his bike, leaving him unable to smell or, subsequently, taste.  This poses the question: what is it like to live without two of your key senses?

There are currently no official figures showing the extent of sensory-loss sufferers in the UK, however, estimates for the US and Europe stand at around 5% of the population.  This can happen due to several reasons:

  • Some people are born without a sense of smell
  • It can be the result of a frontal head injury
  • It can be the result of an infection i.e. the flu
  • It can be the result of old age (from around 75, smell and taste rapidly deteriorate).

The loss of smell and taste, or unexplained disturbances of any sort, can be good indicators for an array of brain-related illnesses.  These include Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s – with the sensory-loss indicator becoming recognisable sometimes years before other symptoms.

Duncan Boak (31) lost his sense of smell in 2005 due to a brain injury sustained in quite a severe fall.  Due to smell playing such a key role in human life – with around 80% of the flavours we taste dependent on smell – this loss brutally affected his life: “It’s so hard to explain but losing your sense of smell leaves you feeling like a spectator in your own life, as if you’re watching from behind a pane of glass,” he said.

Six years after his accident, Mr Boak discovered a book that allowed him to understand the cause of the depression he had been suffering with since the accident. As a result of this, he set up the UK’s first anosmia support group to help others suffering with the mental effects of this sensory loss.

Despite the loneliness and isolation depicted by sufferers of this problem, experts say that the brain can in fact relearn aspects of the smell sense through training, unlike sight and hearing.

If you have been affected by sensory damage, and are looking to claim compensation, please contact us


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