Olfactory clearance - what time is needed in clinical practice?

C. M. Philpott, C. R. Wolstenholme, P. C. Goodenough, A. Clark, G. E. Murty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

11 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: To determine olfactory adaptation and clearance times for healthy individuals, and to assess the effect of common variables upon these parameters.

Study design and setting: Fourteen healthy volunteers were recruited for a series of tests. Their initial olfactory threshold levels for phenethyl alcohol were determined. After olfactory exposure to a saturated solution of phenethyl alcohol (i.e. olfactory adaptation), the time taken for subjects to return to their initial olfactory threshold was then recorded (i.e. olfactory clearance). Visual analogue scale scores for subjective variables were also recorded.

Results: The 14 subjects performed 120 tests in total. Despite consistent linear trends within individuals, olfactory clearance times varied widely within and between individuals. The mean olfactory clearance time for phenethyl alcohol was 170 seconds (range 81–750). Univariate analysis showed a relationship between olfactory clearance times and age (p = 0.031), symptoms (p = 0.029) and mood (p = 0.048).

Conclusions: When testing a person's sense of smell in a clinical setting, recent exposure to similar smells should be noted, and a period of 15 minutes needs to be allowed before retesting if using phenethyl alcohol. Other variables need not be controlled, but greater clearance time may be needed for older patients.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)912-917
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Laryngology and Otology
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2008

Cite this