Ratings of overall olfactory function

Chem Senses. 2003 Oct;28(8):691-4. doi: 10.1093/chemse/bjg061.


The aim of this study was to investigate the accuracy of self-reported ratings of olfactory function in 83 healthy subjects. Such ratings were compared with quantitative measures of olfactory function, as well as with ratings of nasal patency. In experiment 1 subjects rated olfactory function and nasal patency before olfactory testing, whereas in experiment 2 the reverse was the case. No feedback regarding test results were provided until after completion of the testing. The principal findings were: (i) when ratings preceded measurements of olfactory function, there was no significant correlation between the two parameters. However, ratings of olfactory function correlated significantly with ratings of nasal airway patency. (ii) In contrast, when measurements of olfactory function preceded the ratings, this constellation switched. Now ratings of olfactory function correlated significantly with measured olfactory function, whereas there was no significant correlation between ratings of nasal airway patency and ratings of olfactory function. In conclusion, these data suggest that ratings of olfactory function are unreliable in healthy, untrained subjects. The ratings seem to reflect changes of nasal airway patency to a larger degree than measurable olfactory function. The results further indicate that this is mainly due to the limited attention the sense of smell receives in daily life.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Smell / physiology*