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Ear Candling: What is It and Does It Work?

Published on Feb 8, 2019

More and more often in recent years, holistic health treatments have circulated online and become trendy. Holistic practitioners are passionate that their methods work, but sometimes it seems too good to be true. Take the ear wax removal treatment known as ear candling, for example.

It makes sense that ear candling has gained popularity. After all, it’s very annoying to have wax build-up in your ear. Severe ear canal blockage is actually considered a type of hearing loss in itself. Since it’s dangerous to use Q-tips to clean the ear canal, many people are searching online for an alternative and finding fans of candling. And it has gone more mainstream in the last decade; holistic centers and even some spas are offering ear candling as part of their services. Other alternative medicine shops are selling do-it-yourself ear candling kits.

Proponents of the treatment claim up and down that not only is ear candling an ancient tradition of various origins, it’s also the best way to keep your ears clean. But is that really true?

What is Ear Candling?

The “candles” themselves are hollow fabric cones coated in paraffin or another kind of wax. The person performing the treatment places the cone in your ear canal as you lay on your side. The cone is then lit on fire on the opposite end and the burning cone is held in your ear for at least 15 minutes. The idea is the burning cone will build up a suction that pulls out all the wax from your ear into the cone itself, or at a minimum it will melt your ear wax, making it easier to get out of the canal. Once the treatment is over, the practitioner can open up the cone and show you a bunch of gunk the cone has supposedly collected from your ear. Some even claim that the cone pulls out other impurities and can alleviate sinus issues.

ear candling

Debunking Ear Candling

While the idea of cleaning and even purifying the ear canal is enticing, there is no hard proof ear candling does what its practitioners claim. Multiple studies found that there was no vacuum force created by ear candling, let alone a vacuum strong enough to pull out sticky ear wax. The gunk left in the cone has also been tested and found to be a mix of burnt fabric, ash, and melted paraffin from the cone itself. It’s not cleaning the ears. In fact, there’s more evidence that ear candling is a hoax.

The Dangers of Ear Candling

Not only does ear candling fail to remove ear wax, it can also cause some major injuries for those who try it. There’s an inherent risk when dealing with fire and melting wax. In general, it is never a good idea to hold a lit candle close to your face and hair. There’s a large chance of setting something or someone on fire with the ear candling process. The melted wax itself can drip down and burn your face or ear. Even just the ash can badly burn your skin. Is that danger worth a treatment that studies have shown doesn’t even work?

Best case scenario, the melted wax clogs your ear more. Worst case scenario, it burns your ear canal and bursts your ear drum. A treatment claiming to purify your head actually risks long- term damage to your hearing!

Ear Wax Removal Alternatives

If you do struggle with uncomfortable ear wax clogging up your hearing, there are safe ways to effectively clear your ear canals at home. Invest in a wax removal solution; these are often inexpensive and sold over-the-counter or easy to find online. It can take a few days of application, but the solution is designed to slowly break down the solid wax and allow the canal to be clear again. A couple drops of mineral or baby oil can help loosen very hard wax. When showering, gently clean the outside of your ear with a washcloth to avoid sweat and dirt build-up from forming in the first place.

Outside of home care, the most effective wax removal method is going to an audiologist or ear, nose, and throat doctor. They can examine your ears for blockage and use specialized tools to safely remove that wax and dirt. The audiologist can also test your hearing while you’re there to ensure there are no underlying hearing issues.

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