Senior eating a salad at a picnic table outside.

Loss Of Taste In Seniors And What To Do About It

Taste is one of the five senses and arguably one of the most important. Being able to taste means choosing the correct foods for the palate which is crucial for the ability to maintain a nutritional and varied diet. Flavor enhances life, makes food and drinks enjoyable, and contributes to satiety and feelings of fullness. Research shows that one in five Americans over the age of 40 experiences loss of taste. Although some adults over the age of 60 experience some loss of taste that may be considered a natural part of the aging process, there are a number of other reasons why this happens. 

About Loss Of Taste

The sense of taste is governed by a number of organs and tissues working in tandem. The tongue, roof of the mouth, throat, and nose all contribute to taste. Although a total loss of taste can occur, the most common taste disorder is called phantom taste perception which means that the person suffers from a strong lingering taste in their mouth that is unpleasant and overpowers all other flavors. People with this condition may also suffer a burning sensation in their mouths. There are several different types of taste loss and differing reasons for why they occur: 

  • Ageusia: Ageusia refers to a persons’ complete loss of taste. With this condition, people cannot detect any flavor at all. 
  • Dysgeusia: This refers to a loss of taste due to a persistent taste in the mouth that masks all other tastes.  People with this condition often describe the taste as metallic, salty, sour, or rancid. 
  • Hypogeusia: Hypogeusia means that someone cannot taste certain types of flavor or taste sensations such as sweet, salty, or sour, for example.  

Causes Of Lost Sense Of Taste 

There are a number of reasons why full or partial loss of taste occurs. Although many of the conditions that cause loss of taste are harmless, it’s important to be evaluated by a doctor as loss of taste can occur in conditions that affect the nervous system, organs, or can signal an infection. Loss of taste causes include: 

  • Sinus or ear infections. 
  • Upper respiratory conditions or colds. 
  • Covid-19. 
  • Side effects from surgery near the nose, mouth, ears or throat. 
  • Exposure to insecticides or other chemicals. 
  • Certain head injuries. 
  • Radiation therapy near the mouth, ears, throat or nose. 
  • Dental problems such as gingivitis or infection in the teeth or mouth. 
  • Certain medications such as some antibiotics or antihistamines, beta-blockers, and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. 
  • Diseases that affect the central nervous system, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 

Treatment And Prevention Of Taste Disorders 

Seniors who have a loss of taste often experience a decline in their quality of life and may even develop feelings of depression or anxiety. In older adults, loss of taste can also lead to reduced appetite or lack of proper nutrition. People who have lost their sense of taste often increase the amount of salt or sugar in their food in an effort to enhance the flavor, which is unhealthy especially for adults with conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes. Visiting a specialist who can diagnose ear, nose and throat conditions is recommended. Treatments for taste disorders can vary widely and aim to treat the root cause of the problem. In some cases, the condition may go away on its own, such as in the case of a cold, flu, or Covid-19. In other cases, a doctor may prescribe a different treatment such as antibiotics or steroids. There are a number of things you can do to prevent or minimize the effects of loss of taste: 

  • Practicing good dental hygiene including flossing, brushing your teeth, and using a medicated mouthwash each day. 
  • Quitting smoking. 
  • Staying hydrated and eating nutritious meals. 
  • Using vaporizers and antihistamines to reduce the swelling in the nasal passages. 
  • Wearing a mask in public and washing your hands thoroughly. 
  • Reducing stress and getting lots of rest. 

Be Part Of A Community That Promotes A Healthy Lifestyle 

Maintaining an active and healthy lifestyle can promote overall well-being. The Maples has an inclusive care system, focused on living a healthy lifestyle, that offers a full spectrum of services including periodic checkups, routine daily support, a dedicated team of care providers, as well as an on-site wellness nurse. Contact us to learn more about our lifestyle and amenities or to schedule an in-person or virtual tour.

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