New Study Reports Prevalence of Phantom Odor Perception in U.S

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Researchers from National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) suggested that one in every 15 U.S citizens over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors.

Phantosmia, also known as olfactory hallucination, is smelling an odor that is not actually there and affects one nostril or both. The most common form are unpleasant phantosmia and cacosmia and both are characterized by as burned, foul, spoiled, or rotten smells. Major factors causing olfactory hallucinations are nasal infections, nasal polyps, or dental problems. Moreover, neurological conditions such as migraines, head injuries, strokes, Parkinson’s disease, seizures, or brain tumors can lead to olfactory hallucination. Now, research by National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, suggested that 6.5% of the U.S population over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors. The research was published in the JAMA Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery on August 16, 2018.

The research led by Kathleen Bainbridge, Ph.D., of the Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program at NIDCD Bainbridge used data from 7,417 participants over 40 years of age. The data was provided by National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2011-2014 (NHANES) collected the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The research reported that people suffering from Phantosmia lead a miserable quality of life and are often characterized as under-weight. The research was based on a set of questionnaire adopted from NHANES survey and asked whether participants had experienced phantom odor perception. The data was used to explore relation of phantom odors with factors such as age, sex, education level, race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, certain health habits, and general health status of the participants. The researchers found that the ability to identify odors tends to decrease with age however, Phantosmia evidently improved with age. A previous research in Sweden revealed that 4.9% of people over the age of 60 experience phantom odors and the prevalence of the disorder is high in women than men. Similar results were found in the current study with high prevalence of the disease in ages 40-60.

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