Ear candling is an alternative practice that claims to improve overall ear health and clear out excess wax and debris. 

This ancient technique involves placing a hollow candle-like cone into the ear canal while the other end is lit. 

Proponents of ear candling believe that as the flame burns, it creates a vacuum effect, drawing out impurities from the ear canal. 

However, critics argue that there is no scientific evidence to support these claims and warn of potential risks associated with this procedure. 

In this article, we will delve into what exactly ear candling entails, its purported benefits, and whether it holds any merit in modern healthcare practices.

What is Ear Candling?

Ear candling, also known as ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is a holistic practice that involves placing a hollow cone-shaped candle into the ear canal. The candle is typically made of cotton or linen fabric soaked in beeswax or paraffin wax.

The origins of ear candling can be traced back to ancient civilizations such as the Egyptians, Chinese, and Native Americans who used similar techniques for various purposes, including spiritual rituals and traditional medicine. 

The process of ear candling begins with the individual lying on their side while a practitioner carefully inserts one end of the candle into their ear canal.

The opposite end is then lit, allowing heat and gentle smoke to travel down into the ear for about 10-15 minutes. 

According to ear candling experts, this technique can help remove excess wax buildup from the ears by creating suction. They believe that this suction effect helps draw out impurities and toxins from within the ear canal. 

Additionally, some people use ear candling as a relaxation method to relieve stress or promote general wellness.

However, it’s crucial to mention that there is limited scientific evidence supporting these claims. Medical professionals often express skepticism regarding its effectiveness and safety. 

In fact, several studies have concluded that no significant changes occur in wax accumulation before and after an ear candling session.

Moreover, there are potential risks associated with this practice if not performed correctly. These include burns from dripping wax or hot ash falling onto sensitive skin.

Tray of ear candling equipment at the spa

Potential Claims Associated With Ear Candling:

While its effectiveness is still debated among medical professionals, many claim to have experienced various potential benefits from this ancient technique. Here are some of these reported advantages:

1. Cleansing the Ear Canal

One of the most commonly cited benefits of ear candling is its ability to remove excess wax and debris from the ear canal.

Advocates argue that as the candle burns down, heat and warm smoke enter the ear canal and create a negative pressure, which causes a gentle vacuum effect.

This suction allegedly helps draw out impurities and built-up wax, leaving your ears feeling cleansed and refreshed.

2. Promoting Relaxation

Ear candling is often described as a soothing experience that promotes relaxation.

The heat generated by burning the candle can create a warming sensation around the ear area, helping individuals unwind and alleviate stress. 

Some people find this process particularly calming due to its slow-paced nature and tranquil ambiance.

3. Alleviating Sinus Pressure

Many proponents suggest that ear candling can provide relief from sinus pressure caused by allergies or congestion related to colds or flu-like symptoms. 

They propose that when warm air circulates through the ear canal during treatment, it may help equalize pressure within the sinuses, potentially reducing discomfort associated with blocked passages.

4. Enhancing Hearing Sensitivity

Although scientific evidence supporting this claim remains limited, some individuals have reported improved hearing sensitivity after regularly undergoing ear candling sessions. 

They attribute this perceived enhancement to clearer auditory pathways resulting from reduced blockages caused by excessive wax buildup or other obstructions.

5. Supporting Eustachian Tube Functionality

The eustachian tube play a crucial role in maintaining equal pressure between the inner and outer ear, preventing issues like reduced hearing.

Advocates argue that ear candling can help improve eustachian tube functionality by removing blockages or congestion, potentially promoting better balance and preventing related complications.

6. Sinus Relief

Another alleged benefit of ear candling is relief from sinus congestion and related symptoms such as headaches or pressure around the eyes and nose.

While advocates argue that heat generated during the process can clear nasal passages, studies have shown no significant improvement in sinus-related issues following an ear candling session compared to a placebo treatment.

7. Detoxification

Proponents often claim that ear candling helps detoxify the body by pulling out toxins through a negative pressure created by burning candles in proximity to the ears.

This hypothesis lacks scientific backing since toxins cannot be expelled via candle suction alone; they are primarily eliminated through the liver, kidneys, sweat glands, and other bodily processes.

8. Tinnitus Relief

Tinnitus refers to the perception of ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears. Some individuals claim that ear candling can alleviate these symptoms by removing blockages that might be responsible for tinnitus.

However, no scientific evidence supports this assertion, and it is essential to consult a healthcare professional to properly diagnose and treat tinnitus.

How to Perform Ear Candling

The procedure itself usually takes around 10-15 minutes per ear and should be performed by a trained professional or under their supervision.

Here’s what you can expect during an ear candling session:

  • Before starting the procedure, the practitioner will ask you to lie comfortably on your side with one ear facing upwards.
  • The practitioner will gently insert a specially designed cone-shaped candle into your outer ear canal while holding it at a specific angle to prevent any ash or residue from falling into your face or eyes. The opposite end of the candle is then.
  • As the candle burns slowly, you may hear crackling sounds similar to those produced by wood burning in a fireplace. This sound is often described as soothing and relaxing by those who undergo this procedure.
  • As the candle burns, the practitioner will cut off the end of the candle by about 2 inches every time until 4 inches of the candle remain. The candle is then carefully removed from your ear canal without touching your skin directly.
  • Following completion of one side, you will be asked to turn over onto your other side so that they can perform the same process on your opposite ear if necessary.

Ear candling being carried out on an attractive caucasian woman in a spa

Risks and Side Effects of Ear Candling

1. Burns and Skin Damage

One of the most significant risks of ear candling is burns or skin damage. The process involves inserting a hollow candle into the ear canal while lighting its opposite end. 

If not done correctly or if the flame gets too close to your face or hair, you can suffer from severe burns on both external and internal areas around your ears.

The practice of ear candling during lockdown due to COVID-19 in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

For example, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, 16 otolaryngologists (the ear, nose, and throat doctors) reported seeing cases of ear candling, with 13 of the patients reporting different complications, including ear pain.

2. Injury to Eardrum

The eardrum, also known as the tympanic membrane, is a crucial component of the auditory system that plays a vital role in our ability to hear and perceive sounds.

Improper use or excessive pressure during an ear candling session can lead to injuries to the delicate structure. 

Any puncture or tear in this vital part of your auditory system can result in permanent hearing loss, balance issues, tinnitus (ringing in ears), dizziness, or even infections.

3. Wax Impaction

Ironically enough, instead of removing wax effectively, as claimed by proponents of ear candling, it can potentially worsen wax impaction within the ear canal itself.

The heat generated during the process might soften some wax but also push it further into your ears due to the suction created by burning candles.

4. Allergic Reactions

People with sensitive skin or allergies are at increased risk of experiencing adverse reactions to the ingredients present in ear candles.

These allergic responses can manifest as skin rashes, itching, swelling, or even difficulty breathing (in rare cases) due to exposure to substances like beeswax, paraffin wax, essential oils, and fragrances in some candles.

5. Candle Wax Obstruction

Contrary to popular belief, ear candles do not effectively remove wax from the ears. Instead, they may introduce more wax into the canal due to partial candle melting during use. 

This can lead to blockages in the ear canal or push existing wax deeper inside, potentially resulting in hearing loss or discomfort.

In one study, a 4-year-old girl in New Zealand presented with otitis media (infection of the middle ear), and upon examination, the doctor discovered white deposits on her eardrum. This was further discovered to be due to a recent ear canding.

6. Infection Risk

Inserting an object like an ear candle into your ears increases infection susceptibility.

The warmth and moisture created by these sessions create an ideal environment for bacteria growth that can cause painful ear infections (otitis externa) or other complications.

7. Delayed Medical Attention

Relying solely on ear candling for treating underlying medical conditions such as chronic sinus issues or hearing problems might delay seeking appropriate medical assistance when necessary.

So, it’s crucial to consult a healthcare professional who can accurately diagnose and provide appropriate treatment options.

Healthy Alternative Methods of Ear Cleaning

As discussed, ear candling can pose potential risks and safety concerns. Thankfully, several healthy alternative methods offer similar benefits without the associated risks.

1. Warm Water Rinse Technique

One of the simplest yet effective ways to clean your ears is by using warm water rinses. Fill a bulb syringe or a specialized irrigation device with lukewarm water (not hot) and gently flush it into one ear while tilting your head sideways over a sink or basin.

Allow the water to flow out naturally and repeat on the other side if necessary. This method helps dislodge any accumulated wax or debris without causing harm.

2. Hydrogen Peroxide Drops

Another popular alternative method for removing excess earwax is using hydrogen peroxide drops. These drops help loosen stubborn wax by breaking down its composition, making it easier to remove naturally over time.

3. Olive Oil Treatment         

Olive oil treatment is an age-old remedy known for naturally softening accumulated earwax. It involves placing a few drops of warm olive oil into the affected ear(s) for 10-15 minutes before showering.

Olive oil drops and hydrogen peroxide drops should not be used more than once a month unless advised by a doctor.

4. Warm Compress

A warm compress is a simple yet effective way to alleviate discomfort caused by blocked ears or excessive wax accumulation.

  • Soak a clean cloth in warm water,
  • Wring out the excess water and gently press against the ear canal for about 5-10 minutes.
  • This will allow steam into the ear to help soften the wax, making it easier for your body’s natural mechanisms to remove it.

5. Take Warm Showers

Taking a warm shower offers relaxation and serves as a gentle and effective way to clean your ears:

The steam produced during a warm shower helps soften any hardened wax in the outer part of the ear canal.

As water flows over your ears, it gently rinses away softened wax particles from the external surface.

6. Seek Professional Assistance

If you have a history of ear issues, it is always advisable to consult a healthcare professional.

They can perform safe and effective procedures such as micro-suction or irrigation to remove wax buildup without any risk.

Final Thoughts

Ear candling is a practice that has been used for centuries to purportedly remove wax and debris from the ears.

However, scientific evidence suggests that it is ineffective and potentially dangerous.

The process involves placing a hollow candle in the ear canal and lighting it. It is believed the heat creates a vacuum effect to draw out impurities.

Yet, studies have shown that no significant amount of wax or debris is actually removed through this method.

Furthermore, there are numerous risks involved, such as burns and punctured eardrums. Also, candle wax residue can be left in the ear.

​​​​​​​Therefore, you should seek professional medical assistance if you are experiencing any issues with your ears.