Posted on Monday, May 28, 2012

Ear Candling: Getting Burned

Side view of ear with hearing aid. Ears need to be cleaned by a professional.

Earwax also known as cerumen is essential for hearing health. It is part of the natural cleaning process within the ears, protecting the skin within the ear, lubricating, guarding against bacteria and as counterintuitive as it seems, helping to clean out the ears. There are very few times when a person should attempt to clean the wax from their ears. And, in fact, some of the techniques people use to clean their ears, like ear candling, can cause much more harm than good and have even been reported to cause burns. Unfortunately, like the snake oil salesman of yesteryear, some ear candle manufacturers make unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of cleaning ears with an ear candle.

Unsubstantiated claims made about ear candling include clearing sinuses, relieving earaches, improved hearing, and cleansing of the mind. To perform an ear candle procedure, an individual lies on their side and a cone-shaped object covered in wax or paraffin is then stuck into the ear and the opposite end is lit on fire. This burning is supposed to create a vacuum effect that draws impurities out of the ear. This claim has not been proven. In fact, consumer testing done on ear candles, as related by Quackwatch.com, “…demonstrated that all residue originated from the candle and that no ear wax was removed from the ear.”

Despite manufacturers’ grandiose claims no benefits of ear candles have ever been documented or supported by the FDA either.

According to the FDA, “the product labeling is false and misleading in that there is no validated scientific evidence to support the efficacy of the product for its intended use.” The act of ear candling is extremely dangerous and usually ineffective, and people should be made aware of the dangers which can include burns on the face and within the ear.

Ear candles have been shown to push wax further down and add hot candle wax to the ear canal. There are many reported cases of hot candle wax dripping and burning the user or even obstructing the ear canal. Also because of the stickiness of the wax, the pressure needed to create a vacuum could actually rupture the eardrum.

According to the Mayo Clinic using an ear candle can result in:
• Deposits of candle wax in the ear canal
• Burns to the face, hair, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear
• Perforation of the eardrum or other ear injuries

There have been reports of people starting fires in their homes, damaging their hearing, and suffering through surgeries after having used ear candles and getting burned by them. And none of it is necessary. The ear will usually take care of itself and should not need to be cleaned. Having wax in your ear protects it and helps keep it dry. If you feel your ears are being blocked by excess ear wax, there is pain, sound distortion, discharge or an unpleasant odor there are some home removal irrigation kits with wax dissolving agents, but the best and most sure method of removal is to visit an Audiologist or ENT Doctor.

If you'd like to learn more, see your hearing health provider. If you need help finding a hearing health provider click HERE to be connected with the largest network of trusted hearing health professionals in the nation!

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