Today we talk about strange smells in our English listening practice lesson. I’ve never lost my sense of smell or taste, but recently a relative of mine lost their sense of smell and that started a really interesting conversation. A conversation I thought you might enjoy if I shared it with you as part of your English listening practice this week.
If you are a regular here at Adept English, you know that repeat listening is an important part of our approach to learning to speak English. If you learn nothing more than this today, you will have not wasted your time. It’s super important to listen to the same content several times.
The problem with repeat listening is actually staying focused on what you are listening to. You really need to focus on what you are listening to for your English listening comprehension to improve.
If we were reading out an English text book published 5 years ago, and we were robotically reading line after line. Yes, it is English. But do you think you would listen to the content more than once? Some people might not even listen to a full lesson once!
So we take a lot of time to make sure that your listening to relevant everyday English conversations. We take time to make sure that the content is just the right length so you can maintain your focus. We make sure that the content is engaging enough that you will listen to our lessons several times without yawning and losing interest.
|Loss Of Smell
|Sense Of Smell
|Of Smell Is
|In English Talking
Hi, I’m Hilary and welcome to Adept English. Talking of Adept English, I’m really pleased to see that the new version of our 500 Most Common Words Course is proving really popular and we’re getting good feedback about the course.
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This happens through listening and learning to automatically understand the common words, then you can move onto the not so common words in English. Talking words – or talking about words, we’re going to cover a couple of slightly more unusual words today in this podcast.
We’re familiar by now with the idea that one of the main symptoms of coronavirus is loss of smell. The word ‘smell’, SMELL means both the sense itself – your ‘sense of smell’, your ‘experience of smelling’ and it’s a noun ‘a smell’ or ‘the smell’ and a verb ‘to smell’.
The sense of smell can be extraordinarily evocative, bringing back pictures as sharp as photographs of scenes that had left the conscious mind.
⭐ Thalassa Cruso
‘To smell’ can mean that you’re taking in the smell – you’re smelling your coffee for example. But this verb is also used when it’s you that the smell is coming from – hopefully a nice smell! So someone might say to you ‘You smell lovely today – what perfume are you wearing?’ And I said ‘loss of smell is one of the main coronavirus symptoms’.
So the word ‘symptom’, SYMPTOM means a sign of illness, or evidence that something is wrong. So loss of smell and taste can be symptoms of coronavirus. So this loss of the sense of smell is generally known by the word, the medical term ‘anosmia’, ANOSMIA. And loss of taste - the medical word for this, though probably most people don’t know this one – ‘ageusia’, AGEUSIA - ‘ageusia’.
And people who have had coronavirus have some really strange experiences with this. Apparently the anosmia – the loss of smell symptom happens because the virus damages nerve endings and tissues in the nose.
The ‘nose’ is the thing on the front of your face, that you smell with – NOSE. And nerves, NERVES or the ‘nervous system’ are important to us. It’s how sensations are conveyed, are passed around our body. So to smell, we need nerves that are functioning, that are working.
To sense touch, we also need nerves. So coronavirus can damage tissue and nerve endings in the nose – we might not be able to smell for a time. And apparently, it’s when these nerves and this tissue is growing back that another problem can occur.
A photograph of a young woman smelling flowers. Losing your sense of smell is the topic of discussion in this English language listening practice lesson.
Some people suffer from ‘parosmia’, that’s PAROSMIA, which means that the sense if smell comes back, it’s altered, it’s different – and not usually for the better. Things that used to smell nice, like perfume or soap, or food cooking, suddenly smell really, really bad. In fact, some people’s experience of the smell is so awful, that it’s making their lives really difficult. And it often extends to taste too.
The word ‘taste’, TASTE is used in a similar way to ‘smell’. It refers to the overall sense – your ‘sense of taste’ – which can be about the food you eat or the clothes you wear, or how you furnish your house, or your ‘taste in music’. But the basic meaning of ‘to taste’ means to try food or drink, by putting it into your mouth. And like ‘to smell’ – ‘to taste’ can mean you’re doing the tasting – or it’s you that tastes funny! ‘This cheese tastes funny’ or ‘That wine tastes sweet’.
But after coronavirus, how food tastes can change, when the sense of taste comes back. Smells and tastes often just don’t seem nice any more. It could be the smell of onions frying, or bread baking – things most people like to smell! But now it smells disgusting to you.
Just imagine, your favourite food could be chocolate, cheese, your favourite Chinese takeaway or a lovely curry – and you bite into it, and it tastes like petrol, or rotting meat or of something ‘chemical’. This is the experience that lots of people are having.
It’s another strange post-viral symptom and a longer-term symptom of coronavirus. People with this condition are being told that it isn’t permanent, but for many of them, there’s not been any change for quite a few months. It’s difficult to go into a restaurant, if the smell of food seems horrible to you, even if you know that to other people it smells normal. People who experience parosmia report that food smells like burning, or rotting or paint or other strange chemical tastes.
To those of us who haven’t experienced it, it just sounds strange. We might know about losing our sense of smell for a short time with a cold or ‘flu. But if you’re living with one of these conditions – either not being able to taste or smell, or worse still, tastes and smells you normally like seem horrible to you – it can be really difficult.
Smelling and tasting are a big part of our enjoyment in life. Imagine taking a shower, or doing your laundry, or cooking or eating and it’s a really horrible, revolting experience because the smells involved aren’t as they should be. Doctors are really only used to seeing altered perception of smell in patients with head injury, so it’s hard for doctors to know how to treat this or what to suggest.
One of my daughter’s friends from school was known for having no sense of smell at all. It wasn’t something that worried her – she’d never known what it was like to be able to smell, so I guess she didn’t know what she was missing. But there was no point buying perfume or anything scented for her as a gift.
It’s not as serious of course, as missing your vision or your hearing – and my daughter’s friend had never had any medical attention for not having a sense of smell, her ‘anosmia’. But still there was the feeling that she was missing out in life, missing out on enjoyment, with no sense of smell.
People report that anosmia, not being able to smell, or ageusia, not being able to taste are difficult to live with. You can’t enjoy your food. It feels a bit like ‘What’s the point?!’ But parosmia can be unbearable, a real source of distress. Strong smells affect us – imagine the smell of a farmyard every time someone is cooking in the kitchen, or the smell of a stink bomb, like hydrogen peroxide1, whenever you use soap? People report their favourite food tasting of petrol – or the bins on a hot day.
Our reaction to bad smells makes us turn away, hold our nose, want to run away and get out of there. In nature, if something smells bad, usually it is bad and our response is something which has evolved over thousands of years. Bad smells tell us that something is dangerous, bacterial, it may do us harm. So human beings developed the response of ‘disgust’, DISGUST to keep them safe. ‘Disgust’ is when you say ‘Ugh! No! Ew! Yuck!’ to something.
So it’s evolved to be a really strong sense – disgust says ‘Get away! This thing will do you harm’. It’s very much at the level of instinct. So if you look at it like that, it’s really easy to see why parosmia could be distressing and difficult to live with.
There is an organisation, registered in the UK, which was founded before the coronavirus epidemic, which is (...or pandemic, should I say?), which is supporting people for whom loss of smell, anosmia, loss of taste, ageusia and parosmia, altered sense of smell are a problem. The organisation is called AbScent – that’s ABSCENT. So the name is a pun on the word ‘absent’, ABSENT, meaning ‘not there’. And the letter ‘C’ has been added to pun on the word ‘scent’, SCENT, which of course, is another word in English for ‘smell’. A ‘scent’ tends to mean a pleasant smell.
And if you know anyone who suffers from one of these conditions or you do yourself, then their website is abscent.org. There’s lots of discussion and help on there and they’ve also come up with a ‘smell training programme’ to try to help people rewire, retrain their brains around the experience of their sense of smell.
Anyway, I hope that’s interesting and potentially helpful if you experience this or you know someone who does. Adept English – your simple secret to improve your English.
Enough for now. Have a lovely day. Speak to you again soon. Goodbye.
1 I probably mean Hydrogen Sulphide!!