Alterations of gustatory sensitivity and taste liking in individuals with blindness or deafness

Carla Masala;Thomas Hummel;


Food ingestion is crucial for an organism, and eating and drinking are multisensory, complex experiences affected by all functioning modalities. Still, little is known about gustatory perception in blindness and deafness. Empirical studies with this regard have been very scarce and the aim of the current study was to explore whether gustatory compensation may occur like the adjustments observed in other aspects of sensory processing, or if liking of various tastes is affected by blindness or deafness. We hypothesized a decreased gustatory sensitivity and lower liking of all tastes in subjects with hearing disabilities; expected outcomes in the group with blindness were less well justified by the mixed results reported to date. To address the relationship of gustatory sensitivity and taste liking with sensory impairments, we compared the gustatory acuity and liking of bitter, salty, sour and sweet tastes of 100 individuals with blindness and 74 people with deafness with matched control groups without sensory impairments. We found that deafness was associated with lower gustatory sensitivity toward the basic tastes and their decreased likeability, and that blindness predicted an increased sensitivity only towards the salty taste, and just among individuals with an early visual loss. Our results suggest that auditory and visual deficits may undermine food experience and may lead to altered taste liking. Reasons of these outcomes discussed in the current article vary from anatomy to social and economic decisions driving gustatory experience.
Blindness; Gustatory sensitivity; Sensory compensation; Taste liking
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