Okay, so ear wax isn’t a great conversation piece but in the hearing industry it’s pretty much a way of life. Ear wax plays a big role in keeping your ear healthy. But it can also play a big role in causing problems with your hearing as well as problems with your hearing aids. When it comes to removing unwanted ear wax, a number of our patients have asked us about ear candling. So for today’s blog article I thought I’d take a look at this growing trend; Ear Candling.
What is Ear Wax? Before we start let’s take a look at what ear wax actually is. Ear wax (or sometimes called cerumen) is healthy in normal amounts as it serves as a self-cleaning agent that protects and lubricates the ear canal. Its purpose is to catch dust and dirt before it gets to the ear drum. Old wax is constantly being transported, assisted by chewing and jaw motion, from the eardrum to the ear opening where it usually dries up, flakes and falls out. Actually, it’s a pretty neat thing that our body does. Too bad it causes so many problems for so many of us.
What is Ear Candling?
The origins of candling are obscure. Ancient Tibet, China, Egypt, the pre-Columbian Americans, and even the mythical city of Atlantis are cited as possible contributors. These candles are cone shaped and hollow and are usually made by soaking cotton in paraffin or beeswax. A person lies on their side and the candle is inserted into their ear while the other end of the candle is lit. A bowl filled with water is held at the burning end to collect the debris formed.
Ear wax candles supposedly work in two ways. First, the smoke that erupts from the candle enters the ear through the narrow end. After entering the ear, it melts the ear wax and converts the debris along with the bacteria into a gaseous state. This residue collects at the end of the candle so that it can be easily removed. Secondly, the burning process of the ear candle creates a small amount of vacuum, which sucks the debris and ear wax out of the ear.
Do They Really Work?
The resounding answer is a ‘NO’. Experts believe that ear wax candles do nothing to clean your ear. The pressure created by the burning candle is so little that it cannot suck the wax out. Besides, they also do not generate enough heat to melt the wax and debris. In fact, if they were to generate the requisite amount of pressure and heat, they would end up damaging your eardrum. The substance that collects at the bottom of the candle is not ear wax at all, but is the residue from the combustion. You will notice the same substance at the end of the candle if you burn it outside of the ear.
There are also dangers that are associated with ear candling that can be quite serious.
- If the candle is not placed properly, then the wax dripping from the candle may cause burns in the internal parts of the ear.
- The burning candle may cause severe injuries, including burning of the ear, hair and surrounding skin.
- It has the potential to damage the eardrum.
- It can cause additional blockage in the ear canal and cause temporary deafness.
With all of this in mind, ear candling is not something you should go for unless you are willing to risk your health and lasting damage to your ears. A far better and safer recommendation is to allow your Audiologist or Ear Nose and Throat doctor to remove the ear wax for you in the confines of their office.