Ear candling, also known as ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is a treatment often used in alternative medicine. Ear candles are approximately ten inches long and consist of a hollow fabric cone soaked in paraffin or wax. During an ear candling procedure, one end of the candle is lit, and the other tapered end is placed into the ear canal, remaining in place for fifteen minutes.
The marketers of ear candles claim that the warmth of ear candles created by it’s flame, produces a negative pressure that draws wax and other impurities out of the ear. However, the Food & Drug Administration (2010) warns that ear candles can cause serious injuries, even when used in accordance with manufacturers’ instructions. Not only that, the FDA believes there is no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit from their use (FDA.gov, 2010). In fact, the US and Canada have banned the importation of ear candles.
Ear candling can be performed by beauticians, alternative therapists, or by people using kits at home on themselves or their family members. This is quite alarming given that ear candling can be dangerous as well as ineffective at removing ear wax. Ear candling can be particularly dangerous for small children and the FDA notes that children and babies are at increased risk of injuries and complications from ear candles. According to the Therapeutic Goods Association, ear candling can result in:
- Hot wax burns to the face, ear canal and eardrum from dripping wax
- Ear blockages from candle wax
- Perforation or puncture of the eardrum due to molten wax
- Burns to middle ear structures if hot wax passes an eardrum perforation
- Secondary ear canal infections with temporary hearing loss
(TGA, 2017 and Iranian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology, 2011)
At Crystal Clear Ears, we have seen patients who have had disastrous results with ear candling. Below on the left is a photo of a normal eardrum. It is shiny and smooth. On the right is a photo of one of our patient’s ears. You can see a fine layer of white candle wax on the eardrum. As a result, this patient could not hear properly. She was lucky that her eardrum was not burned or perforated.
Here is another, yet more serious case of melted candle wax adhered to the inside of an ear. You can see a large amount of white candle wax stuck to the canal and coating the delicate eardrum. There has also been some trauma and bleeding to the canal.
Anyone who believes they have an issue with their hearing or an accumulation of earwax (including babies and children) should consider seeing the Ear Nurses at Crystal Clear Ears for a thorough assessment. Don’t listen to ear candling claims!! They could cause real damage to your ears or leave you with ongoing hearing loss. Speak to the Ear experts!