For those who are not familiar with the practice of ear candling (aka ear coning, aka thermal-auricular therapy), it is a procedure where a lit, hollow beeswax candle is placed at the entrance of your ear canal for the purposes of removing ear wax and other debris from the canal.
The theory behind it is that as the candle burns down it creates the “chimney effect”, a negative pressure within the candle and ear canal that sucks debris out of the ear and into the hollow inside of the candle. It has become a popular procedure that is now offered by many spas or alternative medicine therapists. In my practice, I have had several clients say they have tried it and they will often ask if it is something I would recommend to those who have frequent issues with ear wax.
The short answer is: no, I would not recommend it.
The long answer is: no, I would definitely not recommend it.
Since ear candling has become a popular thing to do, there have been several studies performed to determine if it is a legitimate means to clean out one’s ear. Research has consistently shown that ear candling is in no way effective in removing ear wax. In some cases, the procedure actually will leave deposits of candle wax in the ear canal, compounding the wax problem. There have even been some instances of injury (burns, ear drum perforation) associated with ear candling. Health Canada has officially stated they are against ear candles and consider the product ineffective and potentially dangerous.
Those who perform ear candling will often cut open the candle and show you the wax and debris they have removed from your ear canal at the end of the session. See the picture below showing the supposed results of an ear candling session.
Researchers have tested the contents of used ear candles and report that what they are showing you is not ear wax but the melted, burnt remains of the ear candle’s beeswax.
So don’t get your ears candled. It doesn’t work and in fact may do you some harm. If you are concerned about ear wax, visit your family physician and at their discretion they may flush your ears with warm water to remove the wax. Alternatively, you can contact your local audiologist and ask if they offer wax removal services.
- Heath Canada (2011, November) It’s Your Health: Ear Candling http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hl-vs/iyh-vsv/med/ear-oreille-eng.php
- Rafferty, J., Tsikoudas, A., Davis, B.C., (2007) Ear Candling: Should general practitioners recommend it?, Canadian Family Physician, 53 (12), 2121-2122.
- Seely, D.R., Quigley, S.M., Langman, A.W., (1996) Ear Candles- efficacy and safety. Laryngoscope;¸106 (10) 1226-1229.