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Olfactory fatigue

Olfactory fatigue or adaptation is the temporary, normal inability to distinguish a particular odor after a prolonged exposure to that airborne compound[1]. For example, when entering a restaurant initially the odor of food is often perceived as being very strong, but after time the awareness of the odor normally fades to the point where the smell is not perceptible or is much weaker. After leaving the area of high odor, the sensitivity is restored with time. Anosmia is the permanent loss of the sense of smell, and is different from olfactory fatigue.

It is a commonly used term in wine tasting, where one loses the ability to smell and distinguish wine bouquet after sniffing at wine(s) continuously for an extended period of time.

The term is also used in the study of indoor air quality, for example, in the perception of odors from people, tobacco, and cleaning agents.

Olfactory fatigue is an example of neural adaptation or sensory adaptation. Our bodies become desensitised to stimuli in order to prevent the over loading of our nervous system, thus allowing it to respond to new stimuli that is ‘out of the ordinary’

See also

  • American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE)
  • Architectural engineering -- Mainly N.A.
  • Building engineering -- Mainly UK
  • Building Indoor Environment
  • Olfaction
  • Anosmia
  • Thermal comfort


  1. ^ Odors chapter, Fundamentals volume of the ASHRAE Handbook, ASHRAE, Inc., Atlanta, GA, 2005

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Olfactory_fatigue". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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