Comparison of subjective perception with objective measurement of olfaction

Carl M. Philpott, Charlotte R. Wolstenholme, Paul C. Goodenough, Allan Clark, George E. Murty

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OBJECTIVE: To see if nasal peak inspiratory flow rate and subjective sense of smell had any correlation with olfactory thresholds.
STUDY DESIGN AND SETTING: A cohort study of 186 normal volunteers was recruited from among staff and visitors at a university hospital. Olfactory thresholds were detected for each subject (103 with eucalyptol and 83 with phenethyl alcohol), along with nasal peak inspiratory flow (PIFR). Subjective sense of smell, along with nasal symptoms, mood, and alertness, were recorded on visual analogue scores.
RESULTS: Subjective perception of smell had no correlation with olfactory thresholds detected (P = 0.4057) and the other subjective measures also had no correlation. There was a significant relationship of PIFR to thresholds in the group tested with phenethyl alcohol (P = 0.002).
CONCLUSION: As with the sensation of nasal patency, the self-assessment of a subject's sense of smell has poor correlation with their actual olfactory ability.
SIGNIFICANCE: A patient's history cannot be relied upon when determining their olfactory ability and formal testing should be performed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)488-490
Number of pages3
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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