Ear Candling: Is It Just a Ball of Wax?

What Is Candling?

The origins of candling are uncertain, but its practice may date back to ancient times. Practitioners of candling (also called coning) use special ear candles made of linen or cotton soaked in wax or paraffin. The candles are hollow and about 10 inches long. Practitioners say that when a candle is placed in the ear and lit, a low-level vacuum is created, which sucks wax and other debris out of the ear canal.

What Are the Purported Benefits?

IMAGE Many claims are made about the effects of candling. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. In addition, there is not even plausible reasoning for how candling might work. For example, proponents say that candling can cure the following conditions: But, each of these conditions occurs on the inner side of the eardrum—out of reach of candles. For other conditions closer to the site of candling— swimmer’s ear or temporomandibular disorder (TMD)—there is no evidence that it is helpful. Many other health benefits associated with candling are vague or scientifically meaningless. Some examples are "strengthen the brain," "purify the mind," "stabilize emotions," "clear the eyes," "purify the blood," and "release blocked energy." Using candling to treat ear-wax build-up has also been criticized. According to one group of researchers, the negative pressure needed to pull sticky wax from the ear canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum during the process. After actually measuring the pressure during candling, the researchers found that, in fact, no negative pressure was created. In any case, there are much safer and easier ways to remove wax.

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