Ear candles may seem sensible to anyone who has gone through the initially strange processes of alternative medicine, or wants to avoid modern medicine at all costs. Maybe the idea is scary at first, but if it traces back to ancient cultures, it must be trustworthy. Though the service has grown in popularity at day spas and homes worldwide, the practice of ear candling is potentially dangerous.

While natural remedies for infections and uncomfortable amounts of ear wax seem preferable over a medication, inserting a small torch in your ear may not be the optimal method. While auricular coning has become more widespread, it is not any more safe than it ever was, and it may not even be effective.

In short, this is how candling is supposed to work (though there are various explanations):

  • A hollow, tapered cloth cone soaked in beeswax and/or paraffin is placed into the ear while laying on one side.
  • The other end of the cone is lit aflame.
  • A loss of oxygen from the heat creates a vacuum and softens impacted ear wax, moving it toward the flame.
  • Sinus pressure and earache pain are alleviated, and ear wax can exit the ear.
  • According to some proponents of candling, it also opens the chakras, allowing humans to enter a higher consciousness.

Like many alternative therapies, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Health Canada do not approve this technique, and much of the medical community is against candling, as well. This is not a question of doctor vs. naturopath either, it seems more linked to common sense. While the ancient Egyptians and Mayans may have found this therapy helpful, our bodies and technology have evolved over several thousand years, and we now have access to safer methods of treatment.

Medical Claims Against Candling

According to several experts at the American Academy of Audiology who wrote a true-false article regarding ear candling, four of the key claims advocating the therapy’s efficacy were proven false. The authors state found no scientific evidence behind the vacuum effect, as researchers found there was no such force created after multiple trials.

Additionally, research has not found that the supposed vacuum draws any residue out of the ear canal, thus defeating the purpose of candling altogether. Studies of ear candling showed that post-candling there was no difference in the amount of ear wax of any participant. Those who took part in the study did complain of ear pain from the heat, and of loud noises emitted from the candle.

As for the safety of the procedure, ear candling has been known to cause injuries such as the obvious burns, as well as ear drum perforations, ear canal occlusions, and secondary ear canal infections with temporary loss of hearing. Another common problem seen in the U.S. is the remnants of ash and other residue from the candle that enters the ear canal.

The director of integrative medicine at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine in San Diego, CA, Dr. David Leopold says, “We’re always dealing with the ‘alternative’ world. . . If it works and it’s safe we want if for our patients. But pretty definitely this is one you shouldn’t try. . . At the very best it’s not going to work. At the worst it’s going to be dangerous. . . It’s not effective and people should stay away.”

To learn more about ear infections and treating them safely, visit echealthinsurance.com/wellness/health-care/illnesses/ear-infection/.