Justin's Nose Knows
The Daily Mail, February 24, 1997
By Justin Hayward.
Without taste or smell, I became cut off from the world. Whenever I developed a cold, even as a small boy, I would lose my sense of taste and smell for about two weeks.
Over the years, I resigned myself to the fact that temporary anosmia - the loss of smell - would be something I would suffer from on and off for the rest of my life.
But I never thought for a moment that the two senses would disappear completely. Seven years ago I developed a very bad sinus infection over Christmas. After about ten days I was expecting my taste and smell to come back as usual, but nothing happened. For the next three months, all food that I ate, no matter how strong, tasted of cardboard.
I got more and more frustrated with the situation. Eventually I went to see an ear, nose and throat specialist. He examined my sinuses and told me that they were in a pretty bad way. He said the normal mucus had turned into a kind of sludge and there was a problem with my drainage system.
He informed me that my only choice was an operation to make a hole in the sinuses so that the fluid could drain away. I thought I didn't have any other option, so agreed.
After the operation, I had to have two straws pushed up my nostrils so they would keep the holes in my sinuses open. Not surprisingly, living with these straws up my nose was very uncomfortable, not to say painful sometimes.
Yet for all the discomfort, the operation was not a success and my sense of taste and smell didn't return.
The loss of these two senses affected me very badly. I felt depressed and strangely disorientated. Because taste and smell are so closely bonded with certain emotions, I felt as though I was increasingly cut off from life.
The doctor who I consulted said I would have to resign myself to the anosmia and I was prescribed antidepressants to try to lift my mood. I took them for three months before deciding they were completely useless.
I hit my lowest point the following Christmas when I realised I had endured a whole year without tasting or smelling a thing. As I tucked into Christmas lunch, I thought: "What is the point of eating all this rich food if I can't even taste it?"
It was particularly annoying whenever I explained my condition to people because invariably they would say "How lucky for you, being unaware of horrible smells". But I would much rather have smelled something really vile than nothing at all.
I expecially missed the smell of my guitars.
Although it may sound odd, guitars have the most beautiful aroma, especially the ones I have that date back to the mid-fifties. They smell so woody and comforting, and it was agony playing them knowing that I might never catch a whiff of their individual characters again.
Mealtimes became a chore rather than a pleasure. At restaurants, I even resorted to ordering the hottest vindaloo curries to see if they would do the trick - but still I could not taste or smell a thing.
Things got so bad that I would dream about tasting food, only to wake up and realise the awful truth. It was very depressing.
It was then - almost as a last resort - that I started to look into the possibilities of alternative remedies. I had acupuncture for four months, but unfortunately that didn't work. Then I started to have aromatheray massages with very strong aromas from the Orient, which occasionally I would be able to smell. But the real breakthrough came when my dentist recommended a practitioner who specialised in natural remedies. Thomas Marshall-Manifold, at the Wimbledon Clinic of Natural Medicine in London had a good track record of treating people with anosmia.
By this time I had suffered from the problem for 18 months and, frankly, would have tried anything. Initially I was sceptical of his testing methods because I could not see how samples of my blood, saliva and urine had anything to do with my lack of taste or smell.
He also tested me for mineral deficiencies and various energy imbalances in my body. After examining me, Tom Marshall-Manifold said that the nerve leading to my olfactory bulb - the part that registers smell - was damaged, most probably by a past infection. But by supplementing the body with certain trace elements and by taking herbal and homeopathic compositions, it was possible to repair the nerve and thereby restore the sense of taste and smell. I was, according to him, not only lacking in magnesium and zinc, but my energy flow was disturbed.
In order to try to rectify this, I had to take four different kinds of pills every day - a magnesium supplement, a zinc supplement, a Chinese herbal composition and a homeopathic remedy which had been designed specifically for me to use. Within five weeks of starting treatment, I began to pick up faint traces of certain foods. Then, one morning in September 1990, when I was eating breakfast with my wife, I bit into a banana and could taste it! I was so overjoyed that tears pricked my eyes. The alternative therapies were working.
From that point on, my sense of taste and smell gradually became stronger. I'll never forget the moment when my wife cooked me my favourite meal of penne with tuna and tomato sauce. It was so delicious - made the more appetising by the fact that I hadn't been able to taste it for nearly two years.
Now I would say that my taste and smell are working at around 60 per cent of their full potential. I know I will never be able to fully regain them, but I'm amazed they came back at all. I still see Tom Marshall-Manifold twice a year and he says that I've made a dramatic recovery.
Now, if get a cold, my senses of taste and smell disappear for a few days, and sometimes, for no reason, I can't taste apples, grapes and certain cheeses. But I'm incredibly happy with the progress I've made. The best thing of all is that I can smell my guitars again.