Clowes: ‘Their Noses Paid the Bills. Then COVID Took Their Sense of Smell’
Anxiety about this ailment [loss of smell] is creeping into wine and fine dining. In the wine industry, losing your sense of smell is so taboo that several sommeliers interviewed for this piece did not want to be identified. One sommelier at a top London restaurant likened the symptoms to a star athlete injuring their anterior cruciate ligament – a knee injury used to routinely put an end to professional athletes’ careers. They warned that those with a compromised sense of smell could be branded as “damaged goods” or unfit for work in the eyes of the profession. Others have questioned whether it could be a factor in future hiring decisions. One well-known former wine buyer for high-end restaurants, who is still suffering from parosmia six months on, said they aren’t able to function correctly in the business because they have “lost the way to detect nuance in wine”. They have stopped buying expensive wines for their own enjoyment as a result.
[…] Researchers and medics now think smell loss happens due to the virus damaging what they call the supporting cells of the olfactory epithelium – the area high in the nose where we detect odours. This area contains both the nerve cells, and supporting cells that make the nose work. If damaged by a virus, these have to regenerate and forge new connections to the brain. Some think that parosmia is an indication of nerve cells healing and making new connections to the brain.
Losing your smell is pretty awful. I haven’t checked, but I’m guessing COVID-19 doesn’t actually affect your taste in any way, despite reports. It’s just that scent is such a vital part of taste that it actually feels like you’ve lost your taste.
Here’s a quick fun game for you to try. Get someone to open a random flavour of crisps for you. Close your eyes, pinch your nose and then eat a crisp and try to guess what flavour it is. It’s close to impossible. Your nose is so important for taste.