Noseblindness: Do You Smell What They Smell?

Let’s face it, odors are awkward. Especially when everyone else smells the odor, but you! When exposed to smells over and over, we become desensitized to them. Whether it’s air fresheners or odors. When you’re noseblind, you can no longer detect certain smells (not to be confused with anosmia). This applies to not being able to smell odors in a place where you spend a substantial amount of time. Noseblindness is caused by repeated exposure to a particular smell. Are your customers smelling odors in your facility that you’re no longer sensitive to? Learn how to tell if you’ve gone noseblind & what you can do about it.

What is Noseblindness?

Many of us are noseblind to smells in our home. With some of us spending more of our waking hours in the office than at home, we can only expect that we’re noseblind to smells in our workplace too. You may notice that your building smells a bit, but nothing too bad.

When you breathe in a scent molecule, it binds to a receptor on a special type of sensory nerve cell that detects scents. This nerve cell produces an electrical signal that reaches your brain. Your brain then goes on to process the scent.

With repeated exposure to a particular odorant, the nerve cell eventually stops sending its electrical signal to your brain. As a result, you no longer perceive the scent. Essentially, you become nose blind.

Keep in mind, if you picked up on the odor, your customers will notice it much more pronounced. This can be a little unsettling if you work in the industries such as hospitality or restaurants. What odors are your customers or guests experiencing that they’re not telling you about?

Why Can’t You Smell Your Own Facility?

Even the keenest of facility management professionals may not recognize subtle, long standing odors in their facility. To find out why, let’s take a look at what Pamela Dalton, a cognitive psychologist at Monell Chemical Senses Center, had to say. Dalton who has been studying noseblindness for over 20 years says “It’s actually a very robust phenomenon. It’s why people go on vacation and come back and say, ‘Oh, it’s so musty in here — I’d better open some windows!’”  Maybe your house is musty — but according to Dalton, it’s also possible that that’s what your house always smells like, but you just don’t usually notice it.

To understand how this works, we need a little background on how our brain registers smells. When we encounter a smell, our brain processes it in the limbic system, which houses the emotional and memory centers of the brain. This is the most primitive part of our brains, involved in our behavioral and emotional responses, especially when it comes to survival: feeding, reproduction, caring for our young, and fight or flight responses.

Rapidly after detecting a new odor, our receptors dull themselves to that scent. This can happen within as little as two breaths. While we can still detect the smell, it’s much less noticeable.

When we “get used to” environmental odors, our brain is telling us that the scent is nonthreatening, which means there is little need to pay close attention to it.

Scientists believe our noses adapt to smell to help us very quickly detect even the subtlest change in the scent of our environment. For our ancestors, this function might’ve helped them notice a change in smell in an animal they’d killed for food, signifying the animal was unsafe to eat, Dalton explained. “Whatever is new in your environment, that huge signal rises above the rest,” she said. “So it makes you an expert in change in your own home.”

Most Common Odors Culprits of Noseblindness

Noseblindness is most prevalent with a few common odors. With this knowledge, you can be proactive in eliminating these odor sources:

  • Using the same fragrance all the time
  • Pet Odors
  • Mustiness
  • Linens
  • Refrigerator
  • Strong Food


Can You Refocus Your Brain to Pick Up These Environmental Odors?

Is it possible for us to get better at detecting the smells around us? Most of what scientists know about how to better respond to smells comes from perfumers. Dalton gives the following tips:

  • Take frequent breaks – The best way to smell your facility as a customer does is to be away for a long time. You’re most likely to pick up on odors after being out on vacation or returning from a long weekend. Because this isn’t always possible, we recommend contacting an odor control company to get a true evaluation of any odor concerns in your facility. Don’t bear the full burden alone. Ask for honest opinions from other people.
  • Change fragrances each month – To avoid becoming noseblind to desirable fragrances in your own or office, we recommend changes your fragrance each month. This will allow your nose to pick up on the new scent.
  • Run up & down stairs – Perfumers and scientists (including Dalton) run up and down the stairs in improve their ability to smell their surroundings. Increased blood flow has been shown to improve our sense of smell. Weary nosed perfumers find that this truly helps & Dalton agrees
  • Being worried about odors helps – Worrying about odors makes you more sensitive to bad smells. Studies show that we’re slowest to adapt to negative smells. Fear interferes with our brain adapting to smells. If you’re concerned about odors, you’re most likely going to detect bad smells and be able to address them.

Get additional tips on creating a fresh smelling facility from AeroWest scenting experts.

Clean scents don’t just smell nice, they make for a more successful, lucrative business.

Does your home smell musty? Try these easy, affordable solutions!

Eliminating Odors & Protecting Your Facility from Noseblindness

Facility managers in all types of facilities can rely on these top air fresheners for the office. A little knowledge goes a long way in operating an odor free facility. Once the odors are gone, you can focus on EXCEEDING customer expectations by scenting your facility with these top air freshening scents of 2020.