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Changes of pressure and humidity affect olfactory function


The present study aimed at investigating the question whether olfactory function changes in relation to barometric pressure and humidity. Using climate chambers, odor threshold and discrimination for butanol were tested in 75 healthy volunteers under hypobaric and hyperbaric, and different humidity conditions. Among other effects, olfactory sensitivity at threshold level, but not suprathreshold odor discrimination, was impaired in a hypobaric compared to a hyperbaric milieu, and thresholds were lower in humid, compared to relatively dry conditions. In conclusion, environmental conditions modulate the sense of smell, and may, consecutively, influence results from olfactory tests.

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This research was supported in part by the German Air force (STAN-research project 08–04). We also would like to thank Dr. Briner and Prof. Hüttenbrink for very helpful discussions.

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Correspondence to Thomas Hummel.

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Kuehn, M., Welsch, H., Zahnert, T. et al. Changes of pressure and humidity affect olfactory function. Eur Arch Otorhinolaryngol 265, 299–302 (2008).

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  • Olfaction
  • Smell
  • Barometric pressure
  • Humidity
  • Environment