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Ear candling is a folk remedy that has been around for centuries. However, many people are skeptical of the practice and fear it could lead to serious health problems over time. Some doctors say ear candles can be safe and effective, while others say they’re unnecessary. What’s your take on this ancient treatment?
Ear candling is an alternative therapy that claims to remove ear wax and other debris from the ears. It has been used for centuries but has come under scrutiny in recent years due to its lack of scientific evidence. Many alternatives to ear candling include using cotton swabs or a vacuum cleaner.
If you do a fast internet search for “ear candling,” you’ll get over 600,000 results right away. Claims range from “candling heals a wide variety of ailments” to “candling removes ear wax,” as well as cautionary statements about how harmful and inefficient the technique can be.
Ear candling, also known as “ear coning” or “ear candling,” is a popular therapeutic technique performed in natural health clinics across the globe. Hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus, cold/flu symptoms, and a lengthy list of additional ailments are common reasons practitioners propose this operation.
The FDA in the United States and equivalent bodies in other countries have made it illegal to use ear candling to claim any medical advantage and have advised the public to “simply say no.”
What Is Ear Candling?
A hollow cone made of unbleached cloth, generally linen, soaked in paraffin, beeswax, or soy wax is known as an ear candle. They come in various sizes, usually around a foot in length.
You’ll be told to lay on your side and shield your face and outer ear with something like a plate at first. Then, to prevent burns from wax drippings, a hole will be cut in the center surrounding the candle. Next, the tapered end of the candle should be carefully inserted into your ear canal at a 90-degree angle from the ear.
You’ll enjoy the wonderful, crackling sound of the burning candle for 10 to 15 minutes as the person lighting it trims the end of the cloth every two inches or so. Then, the candle is taken from the ear and blown out when around four inches remain.
Turn the table over. Repeat. Then take a look at the filth that came out of your ears. You may wonder how all of it could have been in my thoughts.
Ear candling pulls out ear wax by creating a vacuum within the ear because of the ear canal congestion visible on the burnt candle.
Is Ear Candling Effective?
“Do I need to remove extra ear wax?” should be our first query. In most circumstances, the answer is “no.”
The presence of ear wax, or “cerumen,” in the ear is intentional. Wax removal is entirely unneeded for the great majority of individuals. (Yes, you should read the warning label on the Q-tips package.)
The ears are intended to clean themselves. Therefore, they should nearly always work correctly, sloughing off ear wax as needed and disposing of it outside the ear. Unfortunately, the hardening of ear wax is a common occurrence.
In general, ear wax removal is a rare occurrence. But, if you have a lot of ear wax, should you try ear candling as a safe and effective way to get rid of it?
Let’s take a closer look at the research behind this method.
To begin with, research dating back to the 1990s reveals that ear candles produce no negative pressure. The suction pressure necessary to “suck out” wax from the eardrum would shatter your eardrum! According to studies, ear candling has little effect in removing ear wax. Candle wax and powdered ash are sometimes left behind within the ear canal.
Furthermore, many supporters of candling/coning would argue that the gunky residue left within the candle after usage demonstrates that it eliminates “impurities.” Unfortunately, the data strongly suggests that the muck is just candle stubs. Whether you burn an ear candle connected to an ear or out in the air, the interior of a spent ear candle looks the same.
Finally, WebMD, the American Academy of Audiology, and the Mayo Clinic (among other reputable sites) warn patients about the risks of ear candling, including burns, candle wax deposits in the ear, and even hearing loss.
This is likely one of the reasons why Edzard Ernst, a well-known alternative medicine practitioner, said, “The unavoidable conclusion is that ear candles do more damage than help.” So it’s best to avoid using them.”
Many people now still advocate for this practice. What are the potential advantages of ear candling that deserve all of this attention? Do the benefits ever exceed the dangers, and, more importantly, do the risks ever outweigh the rewards?
Ear Candling’s Potential Benefits
According to some claims, ear candling was not designed to eliminate ear wax in the first place. Instead, ancient healers are claimed to have used coning (as it’s known in historical literature) as a technique to quiet the senses and rest the body.
In 2016, the New York Times published a contentious “Letter of Recommendation” in support of ear candling – not as a technique for removing ear wax, but as a means to slow down with a circle of close friends, put down their phones, and spend time in a tranquil environment.
Ear candling sessions probably have some therapeutic benefit, if only because of the crackling fire sound and up to an hour of silence.
Natural stress relievers, such as meditation and silence, are among my favorites. However, it’s also critical to ensure that the advantages of any stress-relieving technique exceed the drawbacks.
Side Effects and Risks
1. It’s possible to be burnt — literally.
Burns to the face, ears, and neck have been reported by otolaryngologists (ear, nose, and throat specialists) in different surveys as injuries caused by candling.
One Canadian ENT practitioner described a severely burnt patient during one session, causing damage to his ear canal and perforation of his eardrum. A full day was reportedly devoted to the rebuilding of his ear.
It’s not just skin burns, either: at least one person has died as a consequence of a candle fire.
At least one candling manufacturer warns of the risks of “igniting the powder in their ears and causing discomfort,” particularly in candida sufferers or those on prescription medicines.
2. You can get candle wax and ash stuck in your ear.
The majority of reported ear candling injury includes a deposit of candle wax inside the ear. A doctor will then have to remove it.
A middle-aged lady went to her general practitioner following an ear candling session in which the individual administering the session burnt herself and then poured wax into the patient’s ear, according to a case published in Canadian Family Physician.
A chunk of hardened candle wax was discovered in the patient’s ear during an internal ear check. She had to be placed under general anesthesia, and an otolaryngologist had to remove the wax piece. A minor rip inside the ear was also discovered, resulting in hearing loss that had not improved after a month of healing.
A 4-year-old child with an ear infection was the subject of another case study. Her doctor discovered white deposits on her eardrum during her checkup, which were proven to be the consequence of a recent ear candling session.
Another candling session gone awry was reported in the London Free Press (in Canada), with a lady requiring surgery owing to ear wax deposited in her ear.
Following a months-long medical fight to remove the candle wax left in her ears after ear candling, a Toronto lady now has persistent ringing in her ears.
A lady in Iran went to an ear, nose, and throat clinic with earache and had to have candle wax removed from an ear candling clinic. Fortunately, she did not sustain any more injuries or lose her hearing.
Students in an audiology school at Nova Southeastern University contacted AudiologyOnline after experimenting to determine what precisely ear candles leave behind after reading an article on the website.
They compared precise interior pictures of the ear taken before and after ear candling and discovered that the ash left behind after the first and second sessions had grown noticeably. In reality, the white powdery deposit on the tympanic membrane persisted after irrigation (a routine medical treatment for ear cleansing).
3. It’s possible that your hearing may be harmed.
People who have had their ears candled may develop hearing loss due to the internal burns that have been left behind.
The FDA’s restriction on medicinally-used ear candles cautions about the risk of hearing loss through candling and the risk of persons with hearing loss trying the treatment before contacting a trained physician.
This “treatment” approach may be doubly troublesome since a severe hearing loss is usually connected with nerve damage, different illnesses, or adverse drug effects, and because more hearing loss is a possible risk factor for ear candling.
As you can undoubtedly guess, there’s no evidence that ear candling is worth the dangers it entails. However, there are various easy and non-invasive techniques to consider if you want to eliminate ear wax naturally, all without the trouble of setting yourself on fire.
Alternatives to Safely Remove Ear Wax
1. Take a bath
The first approach is the most straightforward: stand in a shower with water close to body temperature and let the water go into your ear. Feel free to stand there until you see your ear clearing. Then, to drain the extra water, turn your ear toward the ground.
2. Use oil, peroxide, or sodium bicarbonate to soften the wax.
If a water-only rinse doesn’t appear to work, there’s evidence that softening ear wax with safe things before cleaning your ears again will eliminate excess wax accumulation.
Mineral oil, olive oil, hydrogen peroxide, and sodium bicarbonate are some of the finest possibilities (the active ingredient in baking soda).
You may use 2–3 drops in your afflicted ear while utilizing these things. Allow at least 10–15 minutes for the softener to do its job before bathing. With this strategy, you shouldn’t have to do this more than once a month.
Please note: Unless your physician has specifically instructed you to do so, do not put baby oil or essential oils in your ear. These may be harmful to the delicate tissues of the ear canal. Also, if you’ve had ear surgery or have a hole in your eardrum, you should never use this approach.
3. Take care of your outer ear by moisturizing it.
A dry outer ear is one of the reasons you may have too much ear wax. When dry skin flakes fall into your ear, they may harden the wax and cause the body’s natural processes to be disrupted. Mineral oil may be used to moisturize the exterior of your ears every day or as needed.
4. Use a blend of alcohol and vinegar as a fourth option.
Equal parts rubbing alcohol and vinegar are well-known homeopathic therapy for ear wax that may help clear your ears. Using a rubber syringe, carefully inject the alcohol and vinegar mixture into your ear canal. After lying still for around five minutes, properly cleanse your ear canal.
5. Increase your intake of omega-3 fatty acids
There is some evidence that a lack of omega-3 fatty acids might increase ear wax production. Therefore, increase your omega-3 intake by eating more omega-3-rich foods and taking an organic omega-3 supplement. Even if you notice your ear wax level is amiss, the other health advantages are worth continuing to take such supplements.
6. Seek medical advice.
Do you still have wax in your ears? Then, it’s probably time to make an appointment with an otolaryngologist. While at-home alternatives are less expensive, ear wax removal and irrigation in a doctor’s office are reasonably straightforward and safe.
Other ways for removing ear wax that I don’t necessarily advocate but that you’ll see discussed a lot online are included below.
There are “DIY” ear vacuums, for example, that you may buy over the counter. However, according to research, these vacuums do not remove ear wax, and that the probes used in ENT clinics are significantly more successful.
Interesting Facts & History
Many people believe that ear candling is an “ancient” healing technique. While it is evident that candling has been done in numerous civilizations for a long time, the history and origins of the procedure remain unknown.
Coning seems to have been performed in China, certain portions of the Americas (pre-colonial), and Tibet. While specific assertions are made regarding the Hopi Indian tribe, the Hopi Tribal Council has openly confirmed that their people do not practice ear candling and have never done so.
Ear candling, like many other traditional natural medical traditions, resurfaced in contemporary society in the 1980s. Ear candling kits are not allowed to be promoted for health concerns in the United States or Canada due to their failure to withstand scientific examination. According to the law, they may only be sold “for recreational purposes solely,” according to the law. In 1993 (in Ohio) and 1998 (in California), the FDA conducted substantial seizures for making false claims.
In 2010, they adopted a more aggressive position, publicly advising customers to avoid these products and sending warning letters to at least three major ear candle manufacturers. Even yet, several firms sell ear candling kits and provide in-office ear candling procedures.
- Ear candling is a homeopathic medicine that has been used for centuries and is being used today.
- There is no scientific proof that ear candling is beneficial to your health.
- According to current studies, ear candling is unsuccessful in removing ear wax. Therefore, ash or candle wax may be deposited in the ear canal.
- Ear candling should be deemed unsafe and unnecessary risky because of the risks of burns, foreign objects in the ears, and eardrum damage.
- In any case, I do not advocate using ear candles.
- If you’re seeking ways to reduce stress, avoid ear candles and instead choose safe, non-invasive options like massage, essential oils, and meditation.
- Because the ear is self-cleaning, most individuals do not need to remove extra ear wax. However, there are natural techniques for removing ear wax that you may try at home. Rinsing your ear, softening ear wax with mineral oil or peroxide, and a few more options are all worth a go.
- Ear wax production may be reduced by increasing your omega-3 intake.
- If you have hearing loss, eardrum discomfort, dizziness, or any other major health issue involving your ears, see a doctor right once.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do doctors recommend ear candling?
A: No, since ear candling is not a well-researched practice.
Can ear candles cause damage?
A: Ear candles are used for health and relaxation, typically by burning the inside of your ears to create a warm environment that can be soothing. They have been seen as an alternative treatment option in people with insomnia or other sleep disturbances but do not contain any harmful chemicals that could cause damage to you.
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