In the last few years, ear candling — or ear coning —has become a popular product for those keen on alternative health and wellbeing. But despite some folk touting its benefits, we’re here to dive deep into the world of ear candling and uncover the nitty gritty of the at-home ear treatment.
First things first...
Well, ear candles stem from the realm of aromatherapy. They’re said to improve overall health and wellbeing, remove ear wax, support sinus infections and treat colds, flus and sore throats. Some people even use them to treat vertigo, dizziness, stress and tension.
And while it all sounds a little complex, ear candles are simply specially-made hollow candles. The person receiving the ear candling lies down while another person helps hold the candle in place. One side of the candle is lit and the other is placed inside the ear canal.
When the waxed paper or gauze tube burns, it’s said to create a vacuum-like effect within the ear canal. This supposedly draws out ear wax and treats infections or other ailments. Once the candle has burned for around 15 minutes, most people switch it to their other ear.
There’s currently no scientific evidence showing ear candling working to remove ear wax. Despite the popularity of the practice, most facts actually point to ear candling being dangerous in one way or another.
One of the biggest myths about ear candling is that the head is connected by various unblocked pathways. In truth, solid barriers such as the eardrum exist and inhibit free flow. It’s also important to note that ear wax is notoriously sticky – so a stronger suction force would likely be required for ear wax to be removed from the ear canal.
One study found that there was no suction force whatsoever during the candling procedure – and the temperature was far too low to even melt the wax.
Another myth surrounding the efficacy of ear candling involves the debris left inside the cones after the treatment is complete. Ear candling fans believe this is the residue of ear wax, debris and infection, but research shows it’s more likely a combination of burned candle wax and fabric. This was proven by a study that resulted in the same debris in the cone, even when the candle was burned outside of the ear canal.
While the placebo effects of ear candling are pretty rampant, there’s no scientific evidence to suggest ear candling is effective in any way. Science shows that no positive clinical effect has been recorded for removing ear wax, and on top of that, the treatment is actually associated with risks.
Now that we’ve established that ear candling doesn’t support the removal of ear wax, let’s move on to other claims. Despite fans being adamant that ear candling helps conditions like tinnitus, ear infections and water in the ears, the evidence proves this is not true.
It’s true that the warmth from ear candling could provide people with temporary pain relief in the situation of an ear infection – but as it doesn’t treat the infection, and garners a world of risk, it’s not worth trying.
In the case of tinnitus, it’s important to note that a condition usually caused by an underlying problem cannot be cured with the simplicity of ear candling. The same goes for water in the ears – an ear candle can’t remove ear wax or excess water.
In short, no. Ear candling is not safe, and it’s important to note that the responsibility of safe use is generally with the person using it. But why exactly is it unsafe?
The most obvious reason is the fire hazard and risk of having a candle burning over your ear and close to your face. Another reason is that most people’s ears are completely self-regulating and self-cleaning. Wax is not only normal inside of the ear canal, but it’s actually also really important too. The ear canal efficiently expels excess skin, wax and debris itself, so there’s no need to use ear candles or anything of the like to ‘clean’ your ears.
If you’re experiencing an excess build-up of ear wax, your best bet is to contact a medical professional who has the tools to do the job safely. If you’re experiencing ear pain, pressure, decreased hearing or plugged ears, see a doctor who can help you explore the best options for you.
Not every doctor has the expertise to perform an ear drainage, so you might be referred to an ENT, an audiologist or a physician’s assistant. Make sure you let the professional know if you have a perforated eardrum, as this greatly affects the procedure.
If you’re looking to try your hand at removing excess wax at home, you might like to try a few drops of mineral oil or sweet oil. Never put anything inside of your ear canal, including a cotton swab. This can cause the eardrum to perforate, which can lead to hearing loss or an ear infection.