Smell and Taste Clinic

The Smell and Taste Center at Vanderbilt University Medical Center is a leading destination for people with smell and taste disorders. We evaluate patients to learn how extensive the disorder is and to rule out any underlying medical conditions that could be affecting senses of smell and taste.

COVID-19 and Smell and Taste Issues:

The association of SARS-CoV2 (COVID-19) and alterations in smell and taste has become apparent since the onset of the pandemic. The loss of smell (anosmia) can occur alone, being the first symptom of the infection, or can be accompanied by other symptoms of COVID-19 such as fever, cough, fatigue, headache, and body aches. Several early studies of the pandemic suggest that 35% to 68% of patients with the coronavirus develop alterations in both smell and taste. Interestingly, there seems to be a higher incidence of smell and taste disorders in females with the disease.

Patients generally developed anosmia between 3-5 days after the onset of COVID-19 with the duration of the alteration and smell and taste generally lasting several weeks. Return to normal function was found in slightly half of patients by 5 to 6 weeks. The Vanderbilt Smell and Taste Clinic continues to evaluate patients that have not recovered their sense of smell or taste within the first month. If you are post-COVID and continue to experience issues, please contact our clinic for evaluation and formal testing of both smell and taste. Our team provides you with experienced, compassionate care to ensure that you receive the support you need for your loss of smell or loss of taste.

Dr. Timothy Trone, a member of the Vanderbilt Smell and Taste Center, conducts a Smell and Taste Clinic to assist patients who are experiencing difficulties with smell and taste.

Frequently Asked Questions about our Smell and Taste Clinic:

(click on the question to reveal the answer)

  • The first step would be to complete some online surveys. Call 615-322-6180 to give us your email address to receive the link to the online surveys.

    Dr. Timothy Trone will review them, and then you will be called to set up an appointment.

  • Dr. Trone sees olfactory patients on the second Monday of every month. He sees Post-COVID olfactory patients every Friday afternoon.

  • Check with your health insurance company for your coverage for a regular clinic visit to an ENT.

  • According to the CDC, you can be around others after:

    • 10 days since symptoms first appeared; and
    • 24 hours with no fever without the use of fever-reducing medications; and
    • Other symptoms of COVID are improving*

    *Loss of taste and smell may persist for weeks or months after recovery and need not delay the end of isolation​.

    https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/end-home-isolation.html

  • There are a variety of reasons people lose their sense of smell. COVID is only one of them. Others include:

    • Any upper respiratory infection
    • Sinus surgery
    • Head trauma
    • Dementia
    • General aging
    • Genetics
  • Dr. Trone sees Post-COVID patients on Friday afternoons. If you would like to be seen in the Smell and Taste Clinic,the first step would be to complete some online surveys. Call 615-322-6180 to give us your email address to receive the link to the online surveys.

    Dr. Timothy Trone will review them, and then you will be called to set up an appointment.

    If you are not able to travel to Nashville for an appointment, call 615-322-6180 and give us your email address. We may be able to provide some information about some over-the-counter techniques that Dr. Trone routinely recommends.

  • The loss of smell can occur for a variety of reasons: upper respiratory infection, surgery, head trauma, aging, genetics, etc. Depending on the cause, many people can retrain the olfactory nerve to work again. Those who have the best chance of regaining their sense of smell include patients who had an infection. The longer it has been, the more difficult it may be to regain your sense of smell. Dr. Trone will give you more information about your specific situation.

  • It can take several months to regain your sense of smell. Depending on the cause, it may take longer and unfortunately, some patients may not be successful in regaining their sense of smell. This all depends on the reason for the loss of taste/smell.

  • We do see patients who have phantom odors. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Once you complete the questionnaire and Dr. Trone reviews it, he would have a better picture of what is going on.

    If you have had any recent CTs or MRIs, Dr. Trone would want to review them at the clinic appointment. He wants the actual discs, not just the printout. Bring these with you (don’t mail them ahead of time).

  • Dr. Trone sees adults and children in this specialty clinic.

  • Yes. Call 615-322-6180 to request the questionnaires. When you mail the questionnaires back to us, Dr. Trone will review. Then you will be contacted for a clinic appointment date and time. Mailing the questionnaires back and forth will delay the review process.

  • Primarily, Dr Trone sees patients in his clinic in-person, but on a case-by-case basis, he may approve of conducting a virtual visit. The first step would be to complete the questionnaires.

  • We will perform a series of three smell tests to determine:

    • how strong an odor has to be before you detect it,
    • if you can determine one smell from another, and
    • if you can identify what a smell is.

    If you also have taste issues, we will include a taste test to identify different tastes including, salty, sweet, brothy, and bitter.

    You may also be asked to perform a cognitive test.

    Then, you will see Dr Trone who will examine you to make sure there is nothing else causing your issues and also discuss the results of all the testing. The testing will take about an hour, before you meet with Dr. Trone.

  • For Post-COVID patients

    No, you do not have to have a negative COVID test prior to the clinic visit. Your appointment will have to be at least 30 days after the date of your most recent positive test to be seen safely in the clinic.

    For Patients who haven't had COVID

    Yes, you are required to have a negative COVID test 48-72 hours prior to your clinic visit. Dr. Trone will put in an order for this. If you have the COVID test performed at a Vanderbilt Walk-in Clinic, he will receive the results automatically. Otherwise, you will have to provide proof of the negative test in order to be seen in the clinic. If you don’t get the COVID-19 test performed, or if the results are not back by the time of your appointment, we will not be able to assess you.

  • The smell and taste testing we perform requires you to take off your mask and our clinic staff will be less than one foot from you for an extended period of time.

  • No. This is a regular clinic visit. At this time, there aren’t any research studies tied to this clinic visit.

Olfactory Training

There is good evidence in the medical literature that the function of olfaction or smell can be improved by retraining your sense of smell by using four basic odors through a simple technique at home at minimal cost and time.

The odorants are from the four basic odor categories and are flowery, fruity, aromatic and resinous. These odors are marketed as rose (phenyl ethyl alcohol), eucalyptus (eucalyptol), lemon(citronellal),  and cloves( resinous). They can be purchased from Whole Foods in Nashville or most health food stores.

Olfactory training includes exposure to the odors twice a day (morning and evening) for 5 minutes. Each session involves exposure to the odor by sniffing for 10 seconds and waiting 10 seconds between each odor.