Hyperosmia – Super Smellers

Hyperosmia is a condition where someone has a heightened sense of smell.  Sometimes called “super smellers.”  Hyperosmia can happen all the time or only happen from time to time.  If it comes and goes it may be a sign of an underlying condition.

Hyperosmia is very uncommon, the loss of smell is more common.  Hyperosmia can happen without a clear cause.  It may take some time to diagnose the cause.  Since your smell is linked with your taste, it can affect your taste buds.  

With Hyperosmia you may have a strong discomfort with certain smells.  Specific triggers vary from person to person.  Some normal triggers are chemical smells, perfumes, cleaning products, and scented candles.  When exposed to a trigger you may have headaches, nausea, or even vomiting.

With the strong sense of smells it can cause aversions to food.  This may cause you to stop eating and have unwanted weight loss.  Symptoms may be mild or severe.  Hyperosmia may cause anxiety or depression.

Causes & Risk Factors

There are some conditions that can cause Hyperosmia.  The most well known is pregnancy.  During pregnancy a woman can experience a heightened sense of smell.  This is usually due to the changes in hormones.  This symptom happens usually in the first few weeks of pregnancy.  Another condition is migraines.  During the headache part of a migraine a person can experience Hyperosmia.  Neurological conditions such as seizures in the temporal lobe, Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy, or Alzheimer’s.

Autoimmune diseases like Addison’s disease, can have symptoms of Hyperosmia.  Lyme disease, allergies, sterile meningitis, diabetes, Cushing syndrome, B-12 deficiency, or other nutrient deficiencies can all cause a heightened sense of smell.  Certain prescription medications can also cause Hyperosmia.  When no other cause is found Hyperosmia can be due to genetics.

People who have Hyperosmia may be able to distinguish between certain smells with precise accuracy.  They may be able to tell what shampoo someone has washed their hair with, just from the smell.  If you have had Hyperosmia since birth, you may not even be aware that you have something different, since you have always had your strong sense of smell.


Diagnosis is usually compiling all of your symptoms you have.  Since it is usually caused by an underlying condition, diagnosing that will help your doctor make up a treatment plan.  Your doctor may want to run a CT scan, MRI or even do a nasal endoscopy.  A nasal endoscopy is when a tiny camera is inserted up into your nasal passages to see if anything is causing the heightened sense of smell.  This is a very basic procedure usually done in the office by a ENT, ear nose and throat doctor.


Once your doctor has successfully diagnosed you there will be a treatment plan for you.  Usually treating the underlying cause will get rid of your Hyperosmia.  If you are pregnant, usually once you have delivered the sense of smell will return back to normal.  Try to avoid what triggers you the most when possible.  Chewing peppermint gum can help mask the smell of nearby triggers till you are out of the clear.  Rubbing a tiny bit of vapor rub under your nose can also have the same effect.

You can wear a mask to help block smells from your nose.  Saline washing or sprays can help keep your nose healthy, which can help with your Hyperosmia as well.  There are over the counter medication to help with any nausea or vomiting that may be caused by your Hyperosmia, so that you can eat appropriately still.  Rarely will your doctor suggest a nerve ablation.  This severs the olfactory nerve, causing the function to decrease, this may make smells not so strong.

Hyperosmia can cause some lifestyle changes.  It may cause you to not be able to stand certain smells in certain places, causing certain jobs to be unable to hold.  It can cause some people to not want to go out due to all the unpleasant smells.  Coping with having Hyperosmia is key to living a normal lifestyle.  Learning what works for you to mask certain smells or to stay away from certain environments that cause you distress.  Working from home may help if your work environment is unpleasant for you.  Managing your symptoms of any underlying cause is the best bet to eliminate this heightened sense of smell.

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