Smell disorders have long been neglected.

In Europe and the USA, around 20% of the general adult population has some form of smell dysfunction. 

This number rises to 75% for people aged between 70–80 years.*

*Schlosser et al. (2020). A community-based study on the prevalence of olfactory dysfunction. American Journal of Rhinology & Allergy, 34(5), 661-670.

1 out of 5 people in the general adult population

4 out of 5 people aged between 70-80 years

Smell disorders have long been neglected, despite known links to Parkinson's, dementia and to shorter life expectancy. Recent public and patient engagement work by the charity Fifth Sense (FS) has shown a failure to provide a good service for such patients in the UK. It also showed the need for better treatment and support.

This lack of support has been made worse in the COVID-pandemic, leaving patients and doctors struggling to advise those affected by smell disorders. This adds to the mental health problems that are linked to the loss of smell. To date, based on UK infection rates, nearly 500,000 people have lasting symptoms of smell loss or change (>4 weeks). These may be linked to other Long-COVID symptoms such as fatigue, memory problems and brain fog.

Smell training, a type of smell care, now has several studies showing it can help recover smell function. This is very true in older people, where people suffer a natural decline of the sense of smell. However, current smell training methods are limited to pens soaked in smells or jars of essential oils. A digital solution can overcome these drawbacks and enable digital smell training. This may be delivered in multiple settings including medical, care homes and private homes. The latter sits at the heart of this project's ambition, namely, to enable Smell Self-Care at home. 

Project overview

A key question this project will try to answer is how and why people will engage and accept Smell Care and keep using it in regular, daily exercises.

We will gain first-hand early-stage user feedback from chosen households participating in a 6-month feasibility study using a novel digital technology in their homes. We aim to establish a clear understanding of peoples' underlying reasons, opinions, and motivations to engage with digital smell training over time. 

The empirical, user-centred insights gained through Smell Care will transform how we imagine and develop future technology innovations, can proceed with large-scale clinical trials in diverse patient groups, and create an impact on individuals' life experiences in their homes and local communities.

Smell Care is based on the research and development carried out as part of the ERC PoC SmellHealth Project.