Setting the mood, dispensing pleasant fragrance, even showing the way when the lights go out–lit candles are good for all of these things. What aren’t they good for? Drawing out earwax or treating sinus infections through the popular but very dangerous and ineffective practice of ear candling.
Ear candling is a process in which a hollow candle is placed into the ear canal and lit. Some advocate that the flame creates negative pressure that draws wax out of the ear. In reality, all this does is create a waxy mess on the hair of the candle while depositing charred pieces of flesh onto your eardrum. Ear candling is not only ineffective at removing wax or curing infections but is also dangerous.
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has received over 20 reports of injuries including external burns, ear canal occlusion, pain during candling sessions, candle wax in the ear canal after treatment, delayed removal of burnt-out candles, and one report of a perforated eardrum.
People who sell ear candles make a wide variety of claims that there are benefits to ear candling, including an improved sense of smell, relief from sinusitis, less wax buildup on the ear canal, and improved concentration. These claims have no basis in fact. If you’re looking for a new way to make your ears smell nice, you can give yourself a light massage with milk of magnesia, or just stick to the tried-and-true method of placing cotton balls in your ear canal.
People who are selling ear candles typically can be found at health food or alternative medicine shows. Many people recommend that consumers avoid these products, as they are usually only able to purchase them from vendors who sell other similarly dubious items.
Ear candles should not be confused with the much safer practice of using ear cones to remove impacted wax, which is a procedure performed by ear, nose, and throat doctors.