Past findings of an impact of cognitive impairment on awareness of olfactory dysfunction, and high prevalence of age-associated cognitive impairment motivated the present study of whether middle-aged and elderly adults are unaware of an olfactory dysfunction despite being carefully screened for cognitive impairment.
The sample included 203 Norwegian participants, aged 46-79 years, 134 women and 69 men, who underwent comprehensive neuropsychological assessment for screening of cognitive impairment. Subjective assessment of olfactory function ("How would you estimate your sense of smell?") was compared with outcome on objective assessment of olfactory function with the Scandinavian Odor Identification Test, which in the present study was shown to be valid for use on Norwegian populations.
We found that 79% of this cognitively healthy sample with objectively assessed olfactory dysfunction reported normal olfactory function (57% of functionally anosmics reported normal function). In contrast, only 9% with objectively assessed normal olfactory function reported olfactory dysfunction.
A large proportion of cognitively well-functioning middle-aged and elderly adults with an olfactory dysfunction are unaware of their dysfunction. The ENT physician who suspects that the sense of smell may be compromised should, in addition to an anamnesis, assess the patient`s olfactory function objectively.