“”You're jokin', you're jokin'! I can't believe my ears!
|—The Oogie Boogie man,The Nightmare before Christmas|
Ear candling is a bizarre folk remedy for excess cerumen (ear wax).
Method and hazards
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 [Note 1] the base of the candle. Tympanometric measurements in an ear canal model demonstrate that ear candles do not produce negative pressure . 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.[Note 2].[Note 3] 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.[Note 4] 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 flushed out with water in a few minutes by a nurse. Or you can flush it out yourself with a bulb you can buy OTC at your local drugstore. You very rarely need surgery for this, and that's only if they've tried flushing 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!
Contra-indications include perforated eardrums, worsening impacted cerumen and allergies to any of the ingredients in the ear candles. The depth at which the candles are inserted into the ear canal varies and the practice is largely unregulated.
The purported benefits of Hopi ear candles claim to aid include (but are not limited to):
- Ear or sinus problems including Sinusitis;
- Irritations in the nose – Rhinitis;
- Soothing effects for over irritability and stress related symptoms;
- Noises and ringing in the ears – Tinitis;
- Build up of cerumen;
- Revitalisation for certain hearing impairments;
- Pressure regulation for conditions such as: – headaches, migraines, sinusitis and Rhinitis;
- Circulatory problems in the ear;
- Local stimulation to lymph flow and local metabolism;
- Stimulation of energy circulation.
Ingredients include: Beeswax, Extracts Sage, St.John's Wort, Chamomile, Beta-Carotene.
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.
The Hopi do not appear to have had candles before contact with Europeans.
- 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
- While this says "onto" it tends to be more "into" in the candle where it is purposefully confused with the candle's own material - usually bees wax
- The word "quantum" is used here for the purpose of mockery. Ear candling enthusiasts stick to the hot air.
- The suggestions range from warmth and heat to the chimney or stack effect: the Stack effect is the movement of air into and out of buildings, chimneys, flue gas stacks, or other containers, resulting from air buoyancy. Buoyancy occurs due to a difference in indoor-to-outdoor air density resulting from temperature and moisture differences. This does not have the required vacuum strength to remove anything.
- In other words, not harmless.