Holistic Healing: Ear Candling – WTF is it and Why so much bad press?
Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health and well-being by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. Medical research has shown that the practice is both dangerous and ineffective and does not help remove earwax or toxicants. The claim by one manufacturer that ear candles originated with the Hopi tribe also has been disproven.
One end of a cylinder or cone of waxed cloth is lit, and the other is placed into the subject’s ear. The flame is cut back occasionally with scissors and extinguished between 5 and 10 centimeters (2-4 inches) from the subject.
The subject is lying on one side with the treated ear uppermost and the candle vertical. The candle can be stuck through a paper plate or aluminium pie tin to protect against any hot wax or ash falling onto the subject. Another way to perform ear candling involves the subject lying face up with the ear candle extending out to the side with a 45-degree upward slant. A dish of water is placed next to the subject under the ear candle.
Proponents claim that the flame creates negative pressure, drawing wax and debris out of the ear canal, which appears as a dark residue.
An ear candling session lasts up to one hour, during which one or two ear candles may be burned for each ear.
Professor Edzard Ernst has published critically on the subject of ear candles, noting, “There are no data to suggest that it is effective for any condition. Furthermore, ear candles have been associated with ear injuries. The inescapable conclusion is that ear candles do more harm than good. Their use should be discouraged.”
A 2007 paper in the journal Canadian Family Physician concludes:
“Ear candling appears to be popular and is heavily advertised with claims that could seem scientific to lay people. However, its claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk. No evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition. On this basis, we believe it can do more harm than good and we recommend that GPs discourage its use.”
A 2007 paper in American Family Physician had this to say:
“Ear candling also should be avoided. Ear candling is a practice in which a hollow candle is inserted into the external auditory canal and lit, with the patient lying on the opposite ear. In theory, the combination of heat and suction is supposed to remove earwax. However, in one trial, ear candles neither created suction nor removed wax and actually led to occlusion with candle wax in persons who previously had clean ear canals. Primary care physicians may see complications from ear candling including candle wax occlusion, local burns, and tympanic membrane perforation.”
The Spokane Ear, Nose, and Throat Clinic conducted a research study in 1996 which concluded that ear candling does not produce negative pressure and was ineffective in removing wax from the ear canal. Several studies have shown that ear candles produce the same residue when burnt without ear insertion and that the residue is simply candle wax and soot.
In October 2007, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued an alert identifying ear candles (also known as ear cones or auricular candles) as “dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof” … “since the use of a lit candle in the proximity of a person’s face would carry a high risk of causing potentially severe skin/hair burns and middle ear damage.”
Linda Dahlstrom, health editor for MSNBC, underwent the procedure, reporting that the experience (which included a massage) was relaxing, but did not report any other positive effects from her experience. She concluded: “I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone.”
As of 2008, there are at least two cases in which people have set their houses on fire while ear candling, one of which resulted in death. (That’s natural selection getting rid of dumbasses)
While ear candles are widely available in the U.S., selling or importing them with medical claims is illegal. This means that one cannot market ear candles as products that “Diagnose, cure, treat, or prevent any disease”.
In a report, Health Canada states “There is no scientific proof to support claims that ear candling provides medical benefits. … However, there is plenty of proof that ear candling is dangerous.” It says that while some people claim to be selling the candles “for entertainment purposes only”, the Canadian government maintains that there is no reasonable non-medical use, and hence any sale of the devices is illegal in Canada.
Although Biosun, a manufacturer of ear candles, refers to them as “Hopi” ear candles, there is no such treatment within traditional Hopi healing practices. Vanessa Charles, public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council, has stated that ear candling “is not and has never been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people.” The Hopi tribe repeatedly has asked Biosun, the manufacturer of ‘Hopi Ear Candles’, to stop using the Hopi name. Biosun has not complied with this request and continues to claim that ear candles originated within the Hopi tribe.
Is ear candling a safe way to remove earwax?
Answers from Charles W. Beatty, M.D.
Ear candling — a technique that involves placing a lit, hollow, cone-shaped candle into the ear canal — can cause serious injury and isn’t considered an effective treatment for any condition.
The theory behind ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal auricular therapy, is that the heat from the flame will create suction that draws the earwax into the hollow candle. Ear candling has also been touted as a treatment for sinus infections and as a way to improve hearing.
Research shows, however, that ear candling is ineffective at removing earwax. In fact, the technique can actually push earwax deeper into the ear canal. Ear candling can also lead to:
Deposits of candle wax in the ear canal
Burns to the face, hair, scalp, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear
Puncture of the eardrum
If you develop an earwax blockage, avoid ear candling. Instead, consult your doctor about simple steps you can take to safely and effectively remove the wax.
Don’t Get Burned: Stay Away From Ear Candles
A lit “candle” that can drip hot wax into your ear, usually as you lie on your side.
Sound dangerous? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thinks so, and is warning consumers to steer clear of products being sold as ear candles.
These “candles”—hollow cones that are about 10 inches long and made from a fabric tube soaked in beeswax, paraffin, or a mixture of the two—are being marketed as treatments for a variety of conditions. These conditions include ear wax buildup, sinus infections, hearing loss, headaches, colds, flu, and sore throats.
Marketers of ear candles claim that warmth created by the lit device produces suction that draws wax and other impurities out of the ear canal.
“Some ear candles are offered as products that purify the blood, strengthen the brain, or even ‘cure’ cancer,” says Eric Mann, M.D., Ph.D., clinical deputy director of FDA’s Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, and Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices.
He adds that some firms claim the candles are appropriate for use on children.
But FDA warns that ear candles can cause serious injuries, even when used in accordance to manufacturers’ directions. “Also,” says Mann, “FDA believes that there is no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit from their use.”
Burns and Other Risks
Mann says that ear candling—the procedure is also called “ear coning” and “thermal auricular therapy”—exposes the recipient to risks such as
starting a fire
burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum, and middle ear
injury to the ear from dripping wax
ears plugged by candle wax
puncture of the eardrum
delay in seeking needed medical care for underlying conditions such as sinus and ear infections, hearing loss, cancer, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. (TMJ disorders often cause headache and painful sensations in the area of the ear, jaw, and face).
Even many promoters of ear candles warn potential users to have the procedure done by an experienced “candler,” and to not use the candles on themselves.
Ear candling involves placing the candle in the outer ear, usually while the recipient lies on his or her side. It is also done with the recipient sitting upright.
Often, before being lit, the candle is placed through a hole located in the center of a plate. The plate is supposed to protect against hot wax or ash coming down the side of the device and onto the recipient.
FDA and the Canadian health regulatory agency Health Canada have acted against manufacturers of ear candles. These actions have included import alerts, seizures, injunctions, and warning letters. FDA import alerts identify products that are suspected of violating the law so that agency field personnel and U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff can stop these entries at the border prior to distribution in the United States.
In February 2010, FDA issued warning letters to three large manufacturers of ear candles. These firms were informed that FDA had determined that there was no agency approval or clearance, no manufacturing facility registration or device listing, and no adverse-event reporting systems in place in regard to their ear candles.
FDA will continue to take enforcement action when appropriate.
Concern for Children
Claims that ear candling is appropriate for kids have caused great concern at FDA. “Children of any age, including babies, are at increased risk for injuries and complications if they are exposed to ear candles,” says Mann.
He adds that small children and infants may move while the device is being used, increasing the likelihood of wax burns and ear candle wax plugging the ear canal. “Also, their smaller ear canal size may make children more susceptible than adults to injuries from ear candles,” he says.
Since FDA views ear candles as medical devices, manufacturers seeking approval to sell them must submit evidence to FDA that the products are safe and effective.
Reports of Injuries
FDA believes that injuries associated with ear candles are likely underreported, and encourages consumers and health care professionals to report such injuries to FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program4.
Over the past decade, FDA has received reports of burns, punctured eardrums, and blockage of the ear canal which required outpatient surgery from the use of ear candles.
In its testing, Health Canada found that ear candles produce no measurable effect in the ear and have no therapeutic value.
And in a survey published in 1996, the medical journal Laryngoscope reported 13 cases of burns of the ear, seven cases of ear canal blockage due to wax, and one case of a punctured eardrum.
That study also reported that ear candles produced no measurable vacuum pressure or suction on a model of the ear, and that burning ear candles dripped candle wax onto the eardrum of test subjects and of the ear model.
For more information about topics for your health, visit the FDA Consumer Information Center (http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/default.htm).
Ok so I am going to get to the bottom of this! Is ear candling sooooo dangerous? Is ear candling worth the risk? Does it do anything?
I am not going to clean my ears for the next few days, I will conduct Ear Candling from an experienced user (not by myself so I don’t burn the house down, so stupid what do they walk around the house lit and bump into curtains? WTF?) afterward I will then clean my ear with Q-Tips and take a look!
If there’s standard gunk on the Q-Tips it’s a waste of time! If not then I guess it works! If I get wax in my ear, receive burns or perforate my ear drum and have to rush to the hospital then it’s an epic fail!
What I subject myself to for you, my loyal readers!! I hope you appreciate it!
Also; stay tuned for the conclusion of Oil Pulling with essential oils
**Update** June 9th 2014
I just completed Ear Candling and it wasn’t bad. I don’t understand all the bad hype!
I purchased the candles for $7.99 from Greenlife Market in Butler, NJ
When you do it lie still and have an experienced person do it. They trim the candle as it burns to stop it from falling in your ear. The paper plate is to protect your face from possible falling ash. The ash is cut into a cup of water to catch it. Note the ash is black and the beeswax candle is dripless. How can they say what’s left inside is residue from the candle and not your ear. The residue is also dry and powderlike.
You feel less pressure in your ear once it is complete and the ear not done feels more pressure.
After q-tipping my ears they may be correct the q-tip is filthy since I haven’t cleaned my ears for days before the procedure.
You can make up your own mind whether or not it works from the evidence above.
Tell me what you think… Did it work?
Does the fact that the q-tip is still dirty after the treatment tell you the treatment is worthless?
**Update** March 12th 2015
So I was skeptical as to the wax at the bottom, because it was dry and didn’t look like ear wax, so it looked like it was burned reside from the candle and not ear wax. Well, my ex-wife hasn’t been feeling well and we ear candled her and she finally put the skepticism to rest!
She said when you are sick there’s more moisture in your ear.