Ear candling: Just say no
Setting the mood, dispensing pleasant fragrance, even showing the way when the lights go out–lit candles are good for all of these things. What aren’t they good for? Drawing out earwax or treating sinus infections through the popular but very dangerous and ineffective practice of ear candling.
What is ear candling?
Although no one is certain when this alternative form of therapy began, some accounts trace its origins back to the Native American Hopi and their spiritual healing beliefs.
Ear candling technique varies, but it often involves placing the tapered end of a 10-inch hollow cone candle into a person’s ear, then lighting the other end. Practitioners believe the flame creates suction that removes earwax from your inner ear. Sometimes the candle is placed in the middle of a plate with a hole in it to protect the person's ear.
Candlers believe, falsely, that the passages in the head are all connected so that clearing the ear canal of wax leaves you with a clean head. In addition to claiming it relieves sinus pain and pressure, candlers say the practice treats everything from tinnitus and temporomandibular joint disorders (TMJ) to swimmer’s ear and Meniere’s disease. The technique is also known as thermal auricular therapy and ear coning. No scientific studies exist to support their claims.
Why you shouldn't do it: Three reasons
Healthcare professionals caution against ear candling for several reasons:
Ear candling is dangerous and causes injury
Ear candles can cause serious injuries to adults or kids even when used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions, including:
Ear candling has no scientific proof
Eric Mann, M.D., Ph.D., clinical deputy director of the FDA’s Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices, said the “FDA believes there is no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit from their use.” Charles W. Beatty, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic said the research indicates ear candling is ineffective at removing earwax and can, in fact, push earwax deeper into the ear canal. Studies of the debris that remain inside the cones after a treatment are actually a combination of burned candle wax and fabric instead of impurities removed from your ear.
A normal amount of earwax is healthy
Earwax, medically known as cerumen, provides a protective barrier against dirt and bacteria, even acting as a moisturizer for your ear canal. It’s also a great bug repellent; insects are not fond of the smell. Typically, your body produces just enough earwax to keep your ears healthy, expelling the excess naturally.
What to do instead of ear candling
Do your ears feel clogged? See your family doctor to determine if you have a medical condition which needs to be treated. And remember: Never insert anything into your ear canal, including Q-Tips or cotton swabs.
If you aren’t hearing well, see a hearing healthcare professional. They can administer a hearing evaluation and, if you are diagnosed with hearing loss, help you determine the best treatment options for your lifestyle and budget.