Ear candling

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"You're jokin', you're jokin'! / I can't believe my ears!"
—The Oogie Boogie man in The Nightmare before Christmas.

Ear candling is a bizarre folk remedy for excess cerumen (ear wax).

Contents

[edit] Method and hazards

Look at all that residue and all those toxins! ...Oh, it's actually all residue from the candle itself. Never mind.

The performance involves laying the victim "patient" on their side, and burning a special hollow candle over their ear canal. The heat is supposed to draw the impurities from the ear out of the canal and onto the base of the candle. When visible residue is seen at the base of the candle after the process the practitioner and wooee assume that wax was removed from the ear canal by some sort of quantum warm air currents.[1] This residue is, of course, simply burnt wax from the candle that has run down the inside.

While one might think "it's harmless and cheap, so who cares?", the procedure comes with potential downsides - the most obvious is that hot wax from the candle might drip into the ear, burning the victim patient. There are also all the usual hazards associated with playing with fire indoors.[2] There is no need for an alternative method to removing excess cerumen buildups. You can break down cerumen by using oil - commercial ear wax removal oils typically use peanut oil, although any vegetable oil will do the job. If you have a large deposit that isn't shifting, you can typically have it pumped out in a few minutes by a nurse. You very rarely need surgery for this, and that's only if they've tried pumping it out already. Talk to your doctor.

It is also claimed to remove "toxins" from the body by sucking them out with the warm air current. These "toxins" inevitably set off the smoke detector, so if you hear the smoke detector going off during ear candling, you know it's working!

[edit] Hopi connection?

Some cranks claim that ear candling was practiced by the Hopis. This has been denied by the Hopi Tribal Council. In fact, companies have been asked not to use the name Hopi in their ear candle products.[3]

The Hopi do not appear to have had candles before contact with Europeans.

[edit] See also

[edit] Literature

  • Ernst E: Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science, J Laryngol Otol. 2004 Jan;118(1):1-2
  • McCarter DF, Courtney AU, Pollart SM., Cerumen impaction, Am Fam Physician. 2007 May 15;75(10):1523-8
  • Friese KH., Alternative treatment methods in ENT, HNO. 1997 Aug;45(8):593-607
  • Seely DR, Quigley SM, Langman AW: Ear candles--efficacy and safety, Laryngoscope. 1996 Oct;106(10):1226-9
  • Seely DR, Langman AW: Ear candles, Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1995 Sep;121(9):1068.
  • Seely DR, Langman AW: Coning candles--an alert for otolaryngologists?, Ear Nose Throat J. 1997 Jan;76(1):47

[edit] Footnotes

  1. The word "quantum" is used here for the purpose of mockery. Ear candling enthusiasts stick to the hot air.
  2. In other words, not harmless.
  3. http://www.nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/story.cfm?content=145396&archive=24,20,2005


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