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The Dangers Of Ear Candling
Ear candling is a popular technique for removing earwax from the ear canal. However, it is unsafe and ineffective and not recommended by audiologists. Ear candling is the process of holding hollow cones made of beeswax, soy wax or other materials up to the ear. The pointed end of the candle goes into the ear, while the other end is lit.
What Is Ear Candling?
Advocates of the treatment claim that the heat generated by the candle creates a suction effect that draws wax out of the ear. The wax enters the hole at the top of the candle that a person can then remove from their ear.
Ear candling is rarely self-administered. Patients typically lie down with their heads lying sideways. You then put the ear candle into the ear hole that’s facing upwards, creating a seal. Halfway down the candle is a guard that collects any dripping wax, preventing it from going into the ear. You may also place a towel around your neck for more protection to stop wax from dripping onto your skin.
Treatment takes around 15 minutes. During this time, the burning candle creates suction that supposedly removes the unwanted wax from the ear. This continues until just three or four inches remain. Then remove the candle and extinguishes it.
Manufacturers claim that the debris inside the ear candle contains impurities removed from the patient’s ear. However, given the lack of evidence for the effectiveness of ear candling, it is more likely that this residual material is from the candle itself.
What Conditions Does Ear Candling Supposedly Treat?
Ear candling allegedly treats many conditions, including earache, earwax, tinnitus, sinus infections, sore throat, vertigo and stress. However, the sheer number of conditions implies that the treatment is a panacea. It is not. There is no known independent mechanism that could explain all these benefits.
What Makes Ear Candling Dangerous?
There isn’t any consistent or widely accepted evidence that ear candling is effective. At the same time, there is plenty of data to suggest that it is dangerous. The Food and Drug Administration has issued multiple warnings to consumers not to use ear candling. The practice, the agency warns, can lead to serious injuries, even when following the correct procedure.
The most common injuries from the technique are burns, perforated eardrums and worsening of impacted cerumen. Hot wax, for instance, can enter the ear canal and damage it. Candles can rip the delicate membrane that separates the outer and middle ear and cause the wax to clump more than before.
Ear candling can also cause damage to other parts of the body. Burns to the face, head and neck are common due to the precarious location of hot materials so close to the body. There’s also the risk of burns due to accidental fires. Hot wax can set clothing and other materials in a patient’s immediate vicinity alight.
Is There Any Evidence That Ear Candling Works?
There is no good evidence that ear candling is effective. Studies show that patients do not experience a reduction in earwax levels after treatment. In fact, there may actually be an increase, due to wax deposited by the candle.
Complications of ear candling can be severe. Ultimately, ear candling increases the patient’s likelihood of hearing loss and damage to the eardrum. If hot wax falls into the ear, it can lead to serious inner ear damage.
Ear candling can also lead to an ash coating of the eardrum and ear canal blockages. Damage done to the ear during the procedure can increase a patient’s likelihood of developing secondary ear infections. Broken tissue around the ear candling site provides an opportunity for bacteria to enter and thrive.
Effective Alternatives to Ear Candling
Ear candling is an ineffective and dangerous way to remove earwax from your ears. Fortunately, there are safe and proven alternatives.
At Baker Audiology & Hearing Aids, we provide professional earwax removal treatment that does not involve the use of any candles or hot wax. Audiologists use a curette tool and video otoscopy so that the patient can see the earwax removal process as it happens. They can then view before and after images of their ear canals to see how treatment has helped them.
We do not recommend using at-home kits for ear cleaning. If you notice a consistent buildup of earwax, visit our audiologist for assessment and removal. Get in touch with our team to learn more about our ear wax removal and how it could help you at (605) 610-3466.