A parosmia severity index based on word-classification predicts olfactory abilities and impairment

Research output: Contribution to journalResearch articleContributedpeer-review



Parosmia is an olfactory disorder that involves distortions of specific odors that may co-occur with anosmia, loss of smell of other odors. Little is known about which odors frequently trigger parosmia, and measures of parosmia severity are lacking. Here, we present an approach to understand and diagnose parosmia that is based on semantic properties (e.g., valence) of words describing odor sources (“fish”, “coffee”, etc.). Using a data-driven method based on natural language data, we identified 38 odor descriptors. Descriptors were evenly dispersed across an olfactory-semantic space, which was based on key odor dimensions. Parosmia patients (n = 48) classified the corresponding odors in terms of whether they trigger parosmic or anosmic sensations. We investigated whether these classifications are related to semantic properties of the descriptors. Parosmic sensations were most often reported for words describing unpleasant odors of inedibles that are highly associated to olfaction (e.g., “excrement”). Based on PCA modeling, we derived the Parosmia Severity Index—a measure of parosmia severity that can be determined solely from our non-olfactory behavioral task. This index predicts olfactory-perceptual abilities, self-reported olfactory impairment, and depression. We thus provide a novel approach for investigating parosmia and establishing its severity that does not require odor exposure. Our work may enhance our understanding of how parosmia changes over time and how it is expressed differently across individuals.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3695-3706
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean archives of oto-rhino-laryngology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2023

External IDs

WOS 000947021500001
PubMed 36906652
ORCID /0000-0001-9713-0183/work/146645380


ASJC Scopus subject areas


  • Behavioral categorization, Natural-language processing, Olfactory disorder, Olfactory semantics, Parosmia severity index