What is Ear Candling and does it work?
How does ear candling work?
The claim is that the heat of the burning produces a vacuum, bringing the wax and other entities out of the canal into the candle. As this sounds scientific, it can easily convince people of its efficacy. Others believe that the heat of the candle can melt the wax inside the canal and cause it to fall out over the next few days. When the treatment is finished, the candle is cut open and you can see what has been removed from the canal in the form of a darker wax-like substance.
Are these claims true? Is it worth spending your money?
In short, these are bogus claims. If you are looking to get your ears cleared then other, far more proven methods are readily available.
Let’s talk about how we know that ear candling does not – and cannot – remove wax from your ear canal and why it should be avoided:
- The negative pressure required to remove wax from the canal in this way would rupture the eardrum. Ear candles do not produce this negative pressure and therefore cannot vacuum wax out of the canal.
- The heat produced by ear candling at the ear canal is below body temperature, so is unable to melt any wax inside the ear.
- The darker wax shown at the end of the treatment comes from inside the candle and is merely remnants of the burnt wax and some ash (giving it that distinctive brown hue). Studies have been conducted to compare the effects of candling on people with and without earwax – the results being no different and a lump of melted wax being found inside each. Sometimes, this wax can fall into the ear canal creating a blockage and even an injury.
- There is a physical barrier between your ear canal and your middle ear space and sinuses. It is called the tympanic membrane, more commonly known as the eardrum. Even if ear candling could create a small negative pressure, the presence of an intact eardrum means that nothing can be “drawn out” from and therefore relieving blocked sinuses.
Is ear candling harmful?
Ear candling can cause more harm than good and result in injury to the skin, ear canal and beyond. Burning a flame inches from your ear is never a good idea and in one particular reported case resulted in hearing loss. In the said case, when trying to remove the candle from the client’s ear the therapist burnt herself with the hot wax and some also fell into the ear canal of the client. This had to be removed under general anaesthetic by an ENT consultant and resulted in perforation and mild hearing loss. At the one-month follow-up appointment after the removal, the perforation was still present and the hearing had not returned to normal. This describes just one of many negative experiences from ear candling. In a US study of 122 members of Northwest Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, “40 were aware of [ear candling] use by their patients, and 21 had treated ear injuries associated with ear candling”.
Ear candling is not the answer to your blocked ears or sinuses. If you feel you have a build-up of wax, then we recommend using olive oil to help soften it and book in for wax removal at your GP surgery or a wax removal specialist like Hear4U.
How safe is it?
One limitation of using operating microscopes (also known as loupes) to remove earwax is that, unlike endoscopic microsuction, the view provided is fairly narrow. As a result, patients may be required to move their heads more often in order to get the most accurate view. Overall, though, microsuction is one of the safest, most comfortable and speediest ways to remove earwax build up.
Do note, however, that no method of ear wax removal is entirely risk-free. There are always certain risks, which we ensure that our patients are aware of. Some of these risks include:
- Possible damage to the eardrum in the case of error.
- A temporary or permanent loss of hearing due to the occasionally loud noise in the ear – although we take extra precautions to avoid this and will remove the device immediately in the case of discomfort.
- Tinnitus (although this is rare).
- Slight dizziness – this can be as a result of the process of cooling the temperature inside the ear canal (rare and of short duration).
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