Ear candling is an alternative medicine based on pseudoscientific principles that claim to remove earwax and toxins from the passages in one’s head. Ear candlers believe that the head contains pathways that are all interconnected and that clearing the ear canal will leave your head “clean”.
According to people who believe in ear candling, there are solid barriers in the head, like the eardrum, which makes this impossible. However, there is no clinical evidence that the method of ear candling actually works. In fact, different medical studies have shown that it is ineffective and dangerous.
Edzard Ernst , a retired academic physician said: “There is 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.”
Understanding Earwax and its Removal
Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural substance produced by glands in the ear canal. It plays a crucial role in maintaining ear health by trapping dust, debris, and preventing the entry of foreign objects into the ear. Additionally, earwax contains antibacterial properties that help protect the ear from infections.
While earwax is typically self-cleaning and migrates out of the ear canal naturally, sometimes it can build up and cause issues. Excessive earwax can lead to symptoms such as hearing loss, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), earaches, dizziness, and a feeling of fullness in the ear.
Here are some important points about earwax and its removal:
- Self-cleaning: In most cases, the ears are self-cleaning, and the movement of the jaw during activities like talking and chewing helps push the earwax out of the ear canal. Using cotton swabs or other objects to clean the ears can push the wax further inside and potentially cause damage.
- Earwax consistency: The consistency of earwax can vary among individuals. Some people naturally produce softer earwax, while others produce harder, drier wax. The consistency may be influenced by genetics, age, and ethnicity.
- When to seek removal: If you experience symptoms of excessive earwax, it’s advisable to consult a healthcare professional for guidance. They can determine if earwax removal is necessary and can perform the procedure safely.
Always seek professional advice if you are experiencing symptoms related to earwax or if you are unsure about how to address earwax concerns safely. Healthcare professionals, including ear specialists (otolaryngologists), can provide proper guidance and perform earwax removal procedures when necessary.
What is ear candling supposed to do?
Ear candling is said to create a negative pressure vacuum that forces wax and debris out of the ear canal . Researchers found that no negative air pressure is created during candling and that the amount of negative pressure needed to pull wax would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process.
Those who believe in ear candling say it can be used for a variety of purposes, including:
- Relieve sinus pressure and pain
- Cleanse the ear canal of impurities and blockage
- Improve hearing
- Purify the mind
- Relieve pain and fever associated with a ruptured eardrum
- Relieve earaches
- Sharpen the senses of smell, taste, and color perception
Again, there is no evidence or scientific research to support these claims.
What comes out of ear candles?
Investigators have performed tests to see what is actually coming out of the ear. They burned candles with:
- The tip inside the ear
- The tip outside the ear so the wax melts into a separate bowl
- The tip inside the ear with a tube in place that would allow ear wax to move into the tube blocking candle wax from interfering.
This experiment demonstrated that no earwax was removed from the ear, instead, all the residue came from the candle itself.
Debunking the Myth: Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work
In general, the quick answer is no. And when it comes to helping with clogged ears and ear infections, the answer is still no. The heat of a lit candle placed in the ear just doesn’t work.
As mentioned earlier, the idea of ear candling forming a negative air pressure vacuum to clear the ears is simply untrue. Studies have shown that the supposed “impurities” collected during an ear candling session are nothing more than ashes from the burnt material (burnt wick, fabric, etc.).
Furthermore, the theory that the ear canal is connected to structures beyond the eardrum and into the brain isn’t true. A quick look at any anatomical drawing of the ear clearly shows the ear canal is not connected to the brain, the sinuses, or even the eustachian tubes.
In situations like these, we think it’s important to listen to your gut. If a procedure sounds a little silly and you don’t trust it, you’re probably right. The danger of ear candling outweighs the potential “benefit” you can gain.
You can always contact an audiologist and get their professional opinion so you’re getting all the facts you need to make an informed decision.
Should You Try Ear Candling?
Again, no. In fact, while there is no clinical evidence that ear candling can help, there is plenty showing that ear candling will cause more harm than good. The most common dangers associated with ear candling are:
- Perforated eardrums
- Ear canal blockages that require surgery
In addition, ear candling is known to increase the risk of some injuries, like:
- Burns to the face, outer ear, eardrum, and inner ear
- Candle wax falling into the ear leading to inner ear damage
- Damage to the eardrum
- Hearing loss
- Ear canal blockages
- Eardrum perforations
- Secondary ear canal infections
- Hearing loss
There have been numerous links and studies to prove that using ear candles or ear coning does not work. There is no scientific basis that ear candles can remove earwax.
It has been established that ear candling doesn’t work and that it can lead to a multitude of problems and injuries. And so we can say with confidence that ear candling is not worth the risk. Its effects and benefits are clearly non-existent. In fact, putting a candle with a burning flame in your ears may cause or worsen the problem you’re trying to address in the first place!
If you’re experiencing ear pain, believe you have clogged ears, or have any questions, issues, or concerns about your hearing in general, save yourself the trouble and skip the ear candles. Contact an audiologist and have your ears checked by a professional.
With an audiologist, you can do the necessary testing to discover what is going on and determine the best treatment plan for you. Seeing an audiologist is how you can take matters into your own hands to ensure you get the best solution possible.
What do experts say about ear candling?
Experts all over the world feel the same about ear candling; that it should be avoided at all costs. Since there is no medical evidence supporting the claims that it works in the first place, this comes as no surprise.
In the FDA’s import alert regarding candling, they said “The article appears to be dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof.” In addition, the FDA hasn’t approved these candles for medical use, has sent warnings to manufacturers, and has even stopped their import entirely.
According to Healthy Hearing, “Ear candling is dangerous and causes injuries.” In 2004, the Journal of Laryngology and Otology published a study titled “Ear Candles: a triumph of ignorance over science.”
All told, experts are all saying the same thing: Ear candling does not work and is dangerous. Its effectiveness has been debunked in the medical field, so there’s no reason for you to endure the risks of using “earwax candles.”
Ear Candles: FDA Warnings and Regulations
The FDA has consistently cautioned against the use of ear candles, emphasizing the potential risks associated with this practice. These risks include burns, ear canal obstruction, and even perforation of the eardrum. The agency has not found any scientific evidence to support the health claims made by proponents of ear candling.
In the United States, ear candles are classified as medical devices by the FDA. However, the agency does not recognize them as safe or effective for any medical purpose. This means that the manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of ear candles are subject to FDA regulations, and their sale is not without scrutiny.
It is essential for consumers to be aware of these warnings and regulations, as they underscore the potential dangers associated with using ear candles for purported health benefits.
In light of the FDA’s stance and the potential risks involved, we strongly encourage anyone experiencing ear-related issues or seeking ear care to consult with a licensed audiologist. Audiologists are trained professionals who can accurately assess your auditory health, provide expert advice, and recommend safe, evidence-based solutions tailored to your specific needs.
Choosing to prioritize your hearing health through professional care is a responsible decision. Avoid the pitfalls of misinformation and steer clear of unproven practices. By adhering to FDA warnings and seeking the guidance of audiologists, you take a proactive step towards safeguarding your ears and ensuring a healthier auditory future.
Proper Ear Care Practices: What are safer methods to clean our ears?
The good news is that there are safe methods of cleaning your ears that don’t involve the risk of burns! We should note that for the most part, your body naturally gets rid of excess wax through chewing and other jaw motions, so cleaning your ears isn’t really necessary. However, there are times when wax can build up in your ears impacting your hearing, called an impaction.
Ear wax removal by a professional is the safest and most effective way to clean your ears. Making an appointment with an audiologist is best, as they have all the tools and knowledge necessary to safely and effectively clean your ears. This may include a technique called ear irrigation. The doctor will start by using a solution to soften the ear wax, and then use a syringe-like tool to insert a water and saline mixture to flush out the wax.
Audiologists may use a combination of instruments like curettes, spoon-shaped tools, alligator forceps, or small grasping tools to help remove the blockages. Gentle micro suction, like an ear vacuum, may also be used in combination with softening drops.
Below are a few home remedies you can try:
- Use hydrogen peroxide: When used correctly, it can dissolve ear wax and clear your ears. Audiologists recommend mixing warm water and hydrogen peroxide and placing a drop or two into your ear with a dropper. The wax should dissolve in a few seconds, though you can repeat the process a few times a day if needed. This can also be done with baby oil, mineral oil, saline, or glycerin.
- Use earwax removal drops: Over-the-counter earwax removal drops, like Debrox, have also been shown to be successful. While the ear drops work to soften the ear wax, the ear wax extraction should still be done by an audiologist for increased safety and better results.
- Use a damp cloth for regular ear hygiene: A damp cloth can do wonders for cleaning your ears, and it’s safe. After getting out of the shower, use a warm damp cloth to gently wipe the outside of the ear.
How Can I Remove Wax Safely?
The safest way to remove excess wax is to see an audiologist for an ear cleaning. However, there are different methods you can try at home. As always, being careful and following instructions diligently is crucial – the last thing you want to do is to worsen your wax buildup!
The easiest way to clean your ears is by using a damp cloth. After getting out of the shower, use a warm damp cloth to gently wipe the outside of the ear. This process is easy, non-invasive, and can be done with items you already have at home! It is much safer to use a washcloth than use q-tips that could potentially harm your ears.
EAR WAX SOFTENERS
Another way to remove excess earwax is to use different solutions to help soften the earwax. There are many solutions, like hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, saline, or glycerin that are safe to use. Audiologists recommend mixing the solution with warm water and placing a drop into your ear with a dropper. The wax should dissolve within a few seconds, clearing excess wax. Sometimes this needs to be done several times to get results, but it is safe to repeat the process a few times a day if needed.
OVER-THE-COUNTER EAR DROPS
Ear drops are similar to natural ear wax softeners like saline solution. Ear drops, like Debrox, have been successful in cleaning excess ear wax safely. Make sure to read and follow the instructions carefully. While these drops are sold over the counter, audiologists still encourage patients to have a professional perform the extraction once the wax has softened.
Ear Candling FAQs
Can ear candling help with hearing loss or tinnitus?
No, ear candling has not been scientifically proven to help with hearing loss or tinnitus. In fact, the FDA warns against its use, citing potential risks such as burns and ear canal obstruction. For effective and safe solutions, consult with an audiologist who can provide evidence-based care tailored to your specific auditory needs. If you have tinnitus, an audiologist can provide treatment and therapy that are customized to your specific hearing needs.
What alternative treatments are available for earwax removal?
For safe and effective earwax removal, consider alternatives such as ear drops to soften wax, irrigation with warm water, or manual removal by a healthcare professional. Over-the-counter wax removal kits can also be used under professional guidance. It’s crucial to avoid inserting objects into the ear canal, like cotton swabs or candles. For severe cases of earwax impaction, it would be best to consult an audiologist or a healthcare practitioner for personalized advice.
What are some natural remedies for earwax buildup instead of using an ear candle?
Opt for natural remedies to address earwax buildup without resorting to ear candles. Use warm olive or mineral oil drops to soften the wax, facilitating its natural expulsion. Rinsing the ear canal with warm water using a bulb syringe can also be effective. Additionally, over-the-counter wax removal drops containing hydrogen peroxide or saline solution may aid in breaking down wax. If symptoms persist, consult with an audiologist for guidance and proper information on the most suitable and safe approach to cleaning your ear canals.
Conclusion: Making an Informed Decision
In conclusion, the evidence overwhelmingly refutes the purported benefits of ear candles. Rather than resorting to potentially harmful practices like ear candling or introducing sharp objects into your ears, prioritize your auditory health with informed decisions.
If you’re experiencing any concerns related to your ears, such as wax buildup, cerumen impaction, hearing loss, or discomfort, we strongly advise seeking professional guidance.
Aside from discouraging the use of ear candles, we also advise against putting sharp objects in your ears such as cotton swabs, bobby pins, or any other small and pointed items to avoid getting an ear infection or injury inside the ears.
Schedule a consultation with an experienced audiologist who can provide accurate assessments and tailored solutions for your specific needs. Your hearing is precious, and entrusting it to qualified professionals ensures a safe and effective approach to maintaining optimal ear health.
Remember, misinformation can be as detrimental as the misguided practices it promotes. Let’s prioritize evidence-based care and ditch the myth of ear candles. The practice of ear candling is surrounded with skepticism for a good reason.
For best results, it’s best to entrust your auditory well-being to the expertise of audiologists. They can provide traditional and modern approaches to ensure that your hearing health is at its prime.
Take the first step towards healthier hearing by consulting with a professional who can guide you on the path to lasting ear health and well-being.