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A brain injured man and his partner smell flowers whilst gardening, highlighting the importance of smell - which can be lost with a brain injury

Following a brain injury, it’s not unusual for an individual to suffer a change to their sense of taste and smell.

The olfactory nerves sit at the base of the brain’s frontal lobes, behind the eyes and above the nose, and are where our ability to smell originates. Damage to these nerves, by either a traumatic brain injury, such as trauma to the head, or acquired brain injury, such as a haemorrhage of the brain, can cause damage to these nerves and cause a partial or complete loss of ability to smell. This is known as anosmia and affects around 30% of people who have suffered a brain injury.

Losing your sense of taste, ageusia, is actually very rare and most people who believe they have lost taste, have in fact lost their sense of smell. The ability to smell is directly linked with our ability to taste, so the loss of smell will often affect our taste.

It is not uncommon for the loss of taste and smell to be overlooked or missed following a brain injury; it may not always be immediately obvious to the individual and can be a side effect of medication so it can take some time before the injured person becomes aware. Whilst a more subtle difficulty compared to other consequences of brain injury such as memory, concentration or personality changes, it nevertheless can alter a person’s quality of life.

Consequences of losing sense of taste and smell

Imagine if you couldn’t smell freshly brewed coffee, cakes baking in the oven or your favourite perfume, or could no longer taste your favourite food and drink? The effect of this type of condition can be significant and brings with it additional health risks.

We rely on our sense of smell every day; we can smell if something is burning or if there is a gas leak and how many of us regularly smell milk before using to ensure that it has not gone off? Whilst we can take steps to make our homes safer, for instance by installing smoke detectors, it is only when we lose the ability to smell that we realise the impact it has on our daily lives. If your loss of smell is as a result of a brain injury, caused by an accident which was not your fault, it is possible to clam for aids and equipment to make your home safer as part of your injury claim.

To compensate for a loss of taste, people will often put a lot of sugar into drinks or salt on their food to enable them to taste; this can lead to health problems in the future, so it is important to understand that your taste has been affected by your accident, and make necessary changes to adapt to your post-injury lifestyle.

Will I regain my sense of smell or taste?

Whilst your sense of taste and smell may improve over time patients are often advised that if the condition has continued for six months or more, post-injury, it is likely to be permanent.

If you have concerns about your taste or smell following a brain injury it is important to mention this as early as possible to your treating doctors so that tests can be performed to determine the level of dysfunction.

How Brain Injury Group can assist

If your loss of taste or smell is as a result of an accident or injury which was not your fault, your solicitor will be able to include this within your compensation claim. It’s important to choose a solicitor who specialises in claims for brain injury; brain injury claims are complex and a specialist solicitor will be able to advise you on the more subtle aspects of your injury and ensure the correct rehabilitation is in place at the right time to assist your recovery.

To become a member of Brain Injury Group, law firms need to meet our strict joining criteria which ensures all members have the right experience to deal with brain injury claims of all severities and a service which includes not only obtaining financial settlement but also access to rehabilitation, care and support to help rebuild lives.

If you, or someone you know, has been affected by brain injury and would like further advice, our member firms may be able to assist.

About Bolt Burdon Kemp

With thanks to Bolt Burdon Kemp for their assistance with this article.

Bolt Burdon Kemp have over 30 years’ experience in achieving strong results in complex claims involving adults and children with brain injuries and are pro-active in arranging quick and effective rehabilitation for their clients.

They are recognised as a leading law firm in the field of brain injury by both the Chambers and Partners and the Legal 500 guides to the legal profession.

Bolt Burdon Kemp are based in London and can act for anyone injured in England or Wales.

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