Posted on April 5, 2012 · Posted in TBI Voices
This entry is part 12 of 32 in the series Quinn

Loss of Smell After Brain Injury: Quinn Part Twelve

In part twelve Quinn talks about his loss of smell after brain injury which is a normal brain injury issue.

There are 12 cranial nerves, yet 99% of “neurological exams” performed by neurologists of TBI survivors will contain the following words, “Cranial Nerves II thru XII are intact.”  The irony is that the nerve not tested, Cranial Nerve I, is the one most likely to be abnormal but also the one most predictive of lasting brain injury.  Cranial Nerve I is the olfactory nerve, the nerve that allows us to smell.  Some survivors encounter loss of smell after brain injury.

When did you discern you that you had loss of smell after brain injury?

I have no idea.  The, I don’t know when.  But when we went to the ENT doctor.

That was because you had balance problems and hearing problems?

Yeah, yeah and he explained that if the nose, if the smell didn’t come back within – if a little bit of the smell didn’t come back within a certain amount of time, I think three months, then the smell is gone for good.  The nerve, the nerves are just sheered.

And primarily because you’re having problems with your having problems with your hearing?

Yeah and he had to vacuum some stuff out of the ear which made me pass out again.

And as part of that whole evaluation he tested your smell to see if you have loss of smell after brain injury.


And that’s the first time you were tested for loss of smell after brain injury properly?

I have no idea.

Has your appetite changed because of your loss of smell after brain injury? 


Talk to me about the effects of loss of smell after brain injury has had on you?

I used to just eat cookies, you know, canned, I mean body by chocolate and I used to be able to eat, you know 1,000, 4,000 calories a day, you know without blinking, batting an eye and now, if I eat 2,000 a calorie a day, I’m full, you know.  I’ll cut a meal in half at a restaurant and take the other half home whereas before, I would eat an appetizer, a meal and dessert.

Why are you eating less?

I get full quicker and my taste is totally altered.

Talk to me about how things taste now versus how they used to taste because of your loss of smell after brain injury.

I’ll like something today.  I’ll take it out of the, I’ll eat the same exact thing the following day and won’t like it and vice versa.

Is the difference how hungry you are?

Sometimes.  Sometimes I just forget to eat and my wife will ask me if I’ve taken my pills and she’ll be looking at my pill box and say have you taken your pills.  No.  Have you eaten?  No.  Why?  It’s 3:00 in the afternoon, you’re supposed to take them in the morning.  You’re supposed to eat.  I just, I forget.  I’m not hungry whereas I used to walk around thinking where am I going to get my next cookie.  Where am I going to get my next, you know, piece of chocolate or whatever.  Now, I just, the thought of eating is, is kind of a sec, it’s a second thought.

What about how things taste?  Is there subtle difference?  The perfectly cooked steak that’s just right is just like one that isn’t now?

Sometimes yes, sometimes no.  It’s, it’s weird.  I’ve gone to nice steak restaurants and ordered the best of the best and, you know, I eat it just because  it’s in front of me.  I give somebody a taste of it, Laurie, or my wife or father-in-law or I’ll, you know, I’ll give somebody else a taste and they’re like this is awesome.  And I’m saying to myself this is disgusting but it’s food and I know got to eat.  I know, you know.

Two technical words from the brain injury glossary: anosmia, the loss of smell. Ageusia, the loss of taste. They go together and are a marker of more than just potential for nutritional problems, they are also a marker for frontal lobe injury.

Has anybody connected the dots for you about the relationship between the loss of smell and frontal lobe deficits?

My psychologist opened up and showed me a skull, a real skull, not living, and showed like where the, the smell fibers from the brain would have gotten sheared off.  Showed me where the frontal damages would have crashed into the front of the skull. I have damages all around the brain, on all four sides because when I hit the ice, the brain bounced front, back, side to side.


Next in Part Thirteen: Balance a Big Focus of Outpatient Therapy After Severe Brain Injury

By Attorney Gordon Johnson


About the Author

Attorney Gordon S. Johnson, Jr.
Past Chair Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group, American Association of Justice :: 800-992-9447