Ear Candling to Remove Wax: the Dangers and Risks
The Origins of Ear Candling
The Hopi people (along with other cultures around the world) have a long history of ear candle use, to cleanse the spirit of negativity during traditional rites. This ancient ritual has been adopted by Western alternative medicine as a virtual panacea for many medical ailments. Brought to the consumer market by the White Egret company, ear candles are said to alleviate sinus pressure, improve hearing, improve lymphatic circulation, remove earwax, cure earaches, and stop tinnitus, among other health claims.
There are many supporters of the ear candling tradition, who honestly believe it "cleanses" the ear and promotes overall health by creating a gentle suction to remove impurities from the middle ear. The practice has gained popularity as a non-medical way to treat many ear and sinus problems, but does it work?
Ear Candling Danger
Scary Thought: Many Practitioners Learn from Youtube Videos
Candling Claims vs. Facts
It is beyond the scope of this article to address every single claim given by candling practitioners. A few of the most common claims are examined below:
Candling Claim #1: Candling relieves sinus pressure and pain
The sinus cavities are not connected to the ear in any way. Candling proponents claim a gentle vacuum is created, which helps relieve sinus pain: since the ear is not connected in any way to the sinus cavities, this is impossible.
Candling Claim #2: Candling improves lymphatic circulation
The middle ear is not connected to the lymph system in any way. The candle wax remains in the external ear canal, and does not affect the lymph system.
Candling Claim #3: Candling improves tinnitus
Tinnitus has many causes, including sensorineural hearing loss, TMJ disorders, aspirin use, otosclerosis, and earwax blockage. Candling will not cure any of these problems, including the earwax blockage. In fact, candling may create an ear canal blockage when candle wax gets left accidentally in the ear canal.
Candling Claim #4: Candling removes earwax
Candling practitioners claim that candling creates a gentle vacuum to draw out ear wax and other impurities. Carefully designed studies have demonstrated that the pressure of the middle ear is unchanged during the candling process: no vacuum is created. In addition, many practitioners show clients the wax after the candling process, which is gray and "dirty." This wax has been examined and has shown no traces of earwax or other bodily impurities. The waste candle wax is simply a combination of ash and wax, which appears dirty to the client.
Candling Claim # 5: Candling will purify the blood
Hot candle wax poured into the external ear canal does not come into contact with the client's blood. There is no way to draw out systemic impurities by adding melted wax to a person's ear.
Clients Harmed by Candling
- An otolaryngologist in the United Kingdom had a patient presenting with a case of hearing loss: the woman was found to have used candling, which caused her hearing loss.
- A 55 year old lay midwife used candling extensively, and had candle wax drip onto her tympanic membrane (eardrum), causing a conductive hearing loss.
- A woman in Missouri filed a lawsuit after a candler burned her right inner ear and eardrum, resulting in a severe conductive hearing loss.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has uniformly decried the use of ear candles, as there is no scientific evidence they are beneficial in any way, and many injuries have been reported.
The list of injuries caused by candling includes:
- Burns to the head, neck, face, and hair.
- Burns to the external ear canal and tympanic membrane.
- Perforation of the tympanic membrane (eardrum).
- Hearing loss.
- Obstruction of the ear canal.
Regulatory Actions Against Ear Candling
The FDA has written many warning letters against ear candle manufacturers. The manufacturers have had to revise their package claims, and now state the candles are for entertainment purposes only, and that the product is not meant to cure or treat any disease. Unfortunately, many alternative health websites still list these claims, and sell the ear candles to unwitting customers.
The FDA's Official Stance on Ear Candles
FDA Warning Letters Against Ear Candle Manufacturers
- King Cone International
FDA warning letter against King Cone International
- A.J.\'s Candles, Inc
FDA warning letter to A.J.'s Candles, Inc.
FDA warning letter against Wally's Natural Products, Inc.
- White Egret, Inc.
FDA warning letter against White Egret.
- Body Tools
FDA warning letter against Body Tools
Healthy Alternatives to Ear Candling
For chronic sinus infections or ear problems, see an otolaryngologist, or Ear, Nose, and Throat doctor (ENT). These doctors specialize in ear and sinus health, and will be able to point a patient to safer natural methods. Many ENT physicians recommend the use of neti pots to clear sinuses as a natural and effective cleansing method.
Debrox is an earwax softener that is available over-the-counter and is safe for most people (individuals with tympanostomy tubes or any other eardrum perforation should not use any product in the ear without consulting a doctor first).
Seeing a physician is paramount to good health: serious conditions should be ruled out and effective, safe therapies can be obtained.
An Expose on Ear Candling
The Expert Opinion on Ear Candling
The American Academy of Otolaryngology denounces candling.
- The Lowdown on Ear Candling
Doctors express concerns over ear candling -- a method of ear wax removal.
- Ear candling: Is it safe? - MayoClinic.com
Ear candling A Mayo Clinic specialist explains the dangers of this earwax removal technique.
- Why Ear Candling Is Not a Good Idea
Quackwatch lists relevant research on the practice of ear candling.