What is ear candling, and why do people do it?
Ear candling is a procedure in which a special type of candle is placed over the ear and lit on fire. It is supposed that this creates a low-level vacuum that draws impurities out of the ear. It may also draw cerumen—or earwax—out of the ear canal; some practitioners also assert that the candling simply heats the cerumen so that it softens and comes out gradually over subsequent days.
Ear candling is regarded as an alternative therapy or complementary medicine employed for the primary result of drawing wax out of the ear. However, proponents of ear candling make many claims about the positive health benefits of the procedure, asserting that ear candling can relieve sinus pain, purify the mind, sharpen the senses of taste, smell, and color perception, stabilize emotions, relieve vertigo, reduce stress, and more.
The exact origin of the practice is unknown. In the ear candling community, people have made a range of claims about the history of ear candling, mentioning ancient origins in China, North America, Egypt, and even the mythical city of Atlantis.
How to Use Ear Candles
Ear candling is sometimes performed by beauticians or ayurvedic therapists, and you might find the service offered at medical spas or natural health clinics. You can also do it at home with a kit; because the materials are inexpensive, this can lead to major cost savings.
It’s generally recommend having another person present while ear candling to lend a helping hand. Below we provide all the necessary information for you to understand how to remove ear wax with candle supplies.
Ear Candling Supplies
It’s easy to find ear candling supplies both online and in stores (including big chain stores like Walgreens and Wal-Mart).
An ear candling kit may include:
- ear candles
- a foil plate or protective disc that shields the hair/ear/face
- skewers for unclogging the tip of the candle
Ear Candling Instructions
This is a basic introduction of how to use ear wax candles. If you buy a candling kit, make sure to read and follow the instructions included with the kit.
How to use an ear candle:
- To begin candling ears, you’ll need an ear candle. These are different from conventional candles—an ear candle is usually made from a hollow fabric tube soaked in beeswax. They are slightly cone-shaped, with the tapered end designed to be inserted into the ear.
- With the recipient lying on their side, pull hair to the side and place the ear candle in the auditory canal. You’ll need to be in a comfortable position, as you’ll have to remain on your side for some time.
- Adjust the candle. It must fit snugly to create a vacuum. Some instructions say to place the candle at a slight angle.
- Light the candle. It is common to let it burn for 15 minutes.1 It is recommended to have an assistant to monitor the burning. If smoke comes out of the ear or if the candle becomes hot at the bottom, remove the candle, extinguish the flame, and re-insert once the candle cools.
- Extinguish the candle and remove it from the auditory canal. You may notice a brown, waxy substance on the stub of the candle. Ear candling practitioners generally believe this substance to be a mixture of ear wax, debris, and bacteria.1
Do Ear Candles Work?
If they do, how do ear candles work? The ear candling community is divided on this. One hypothesis suggests a “chimney effect” created by the burning candle, which forms a vacuum that draws wax, debris, and bacteria out of the ear. Another hypothesis states that candling doesn’t remove earwax but instead heats it up, encouraging the wax to melt and come out gradually over the following days.1
Does ear candling work? Again, it depends on who you ask. Scientific studies that examined ear candling found that candling does not create the negative air pressure that would be present in a vacuum, nor does it appear to remove any earwax from the ear.2,3 These studies have also noted various injuries and negative outcomes.
On the other hand, ear candling advocates and practitioners believe that ear candling results are good, with an array of positive outcomes. In practice, ear candling has been used in the treatment of ear and sinus pain, migraines, poor hearing, rhinitis, sinusitis, glue ear, colds, flu, stress, and ringing in the ear.2 It has also been used to treat vertigo and even to strengthen the brain.1
While reviews speak of many positive ear candling benefits, scientific research in general finds a lack of evidence to back up these claims, concluding that ear candling is not an effective treatment method for the removal of ear wax.1,2,3 However, these studies do not examine the relationship between ear candling and the various additional benefits that it is believed to provide.
If you decide to use ear candles, you should take careful note of any conditions or symptoms you are trying to improve, tracking changes to see whether the procedure was effective for you.
Is Ear Candling Safe?
Are ear candles safe? Despite the fact that ear candling kits are widely available, there have been many cases of injuries and other undesirable outcomes resulting from the use of ear candles.
Ear candling side effects include several serious complications—one case report examined an instance of hearing loss in a woman resulting from a large amount of candle wax blocking her auditory canal.2 Another study surveyed 122 otolaryngologists about their patients’ use of ear candling and found that ear candling had caused various injuries. These included burns, occlusion of the ear canal with candle wax, tympanic membrane perforation, temporary hearing loss, and inflammation of the ear canal.1
So, are ear candles dangerous? Yes and no. Anecdotal evidence tells us that ear candling can be practiced safely and with no negative side effects. However, it’s important to keep in mind that ear candling may be more dangerous for people with certain conditions. Researchers from the survey above caution that ear candling should be strongly discouraged for patients with perforated tympanic membranes, grommets, or who have had recent surgery, as these factors seem to increase the risk for an ear candling injury.1
Overall, the scientific sources caution users against ear candling, explaining that is has not been found to be effective (at least for ear wax removal), coupled with the fact that it may lead to injury.
Where to Buy Ear Candles
Wondering, “Where can I buy ear candles?” It’s easy to find candles and kits both online and in many common stores, including CVS, Walgreens, GNC, Whole Foods, and Wal-Mart. Amazon also has a large selection of ear candling starter kits. When you shop, you might have better luck by looking for terms like “ear wax candle” or “ear wax removal candle”, as the candles and kits are generally classified under the “ear wax removal” category, regardless of whether ear wax removal is your primary goal.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Rafferty, J., Tsikoudas, A., & Davis, B. C. (2007). Ear candling: Should general practitioners recommend it? Canadian Family Physician, 53(12), 2121–2122. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231549/
- Zackaria, M. and Aymat, A. (2009) Ear Candling: A Case Report. European Journal of General Practice, 15(3): 168-169. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org/10.3109/13814780903260756
- Seely, D. R., Quigley, S. M. and Langman, A. W. (1996), Ear Candles-Efficacy and Safety. The Laryngoscope, 106: 1226–1229. DOI:10.1097/00005537-199610000-00010