The dangerous practice of ear candling

There is a practice whose popularity waxes and wanes, yet, the ineffectiveness and potential danger persists.

Said to be a Hopi Indian tradition, ear candling has adherents in the holistic medical field and is said to remove wax, debris and other “impurities” from the ear canals. Hopi representatives deny any origin of this practice in their culture, although this is possibly the least troubling aspect of the procedure. The practitioner tilts the head and places a lit candle in one ear canal at a time. The suction created by the heat differential or oxygen consumption of the lit and unlit ends of the candle purportedly dislodges the cerumen (wax) and debris. Clients are often shown the wax that was removed.

Studies of the practice of ear candling, as reported in journals such as American Family Physician and Laryngoscope, have yet to find evidence of effectiveness. In fact, the FDA has issued alerts warning of the potential dangers of the practice. Dangers include burns and ear drum or middle ear damage. The wax debris shown to clients has been found to be from inside the candle itself.

Ear wax is a good thing in moderation. It maintains the pH and skin lubrication within the ear canal. It is toxic to various viruses, bacteria, fungi, insects, and can be considered a part of the immune system. Patients who clean the wax out too aggressively via peroxide/alcohol become prone to infections of the ear canal. Only when the cerumen becomes excessive can it interfere with hearing and cause other minor ear-related problems. ALWAYS seek attention for your ears from a qualifed professional, such as an audiologist or otolaryngologist. There are several approved, safe and effective methods for managing excessive ear wax. As always, let us help keep you on a clear path to good hearing and ear health.