Abstract

Earlier studies have suggested that aging may adversely affect the sense of smell more than the sense of taste. Although both sense modalities lose some absolute (threshold) sensitivity, agerelated losses of suprathreshold magnitude seem to occur commonly in the sense of smell, less commonly in the sense of taste. This apparent difference between taste and smell was put to direct test in the same subjects in the same test session. Young (20–25 years) and two groups of elderly people (65–78 and 80–95 years) estimated the taste intensity of various concentrations of NaCl and the odor intensity of various levels of iso-amyl butyrate, under instruction to make magnitude estimations of both kinds of stimuli on a common scale. Relative to the taste estimates, the old gave lower odor estimates than the young. Also, the 80–95 year group showed, on average, a greater odor deficit than the 65–78 year group. This outcome supports the main hypothesis that as age increases smell deficits present a more serious problem than do taste deficits.

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