This past week I saw a woman in her mid 40s for an audiometric evaluation. She was complaining that after a recent trip she felt as if she had lost some of her hearing. When I checked her ears, I was shocked to see what appeared to be … drippings from a candle?
I asked the patient what happened and she told me that while on vacation in Florida she and her family went to a street fair. One of the booths was promoting ear candling as treatment for a variety of conditions, including ear wax buildup, hearing loss, sinus infections, colds and soar throats. The woman paid $45 to have someone stick a lit candle in her ear to help her ailments.
Having a lit candle in your ear sounds pretty dangerous, right? The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and its Canadian counterpart, Health Canada, think so too and are warning the manufacturers of these devices, issuing injunctions and seizing shipments.
These “candles” – hollow cones that are about 10 inches long and made from a fabric tube soaked in beeswax, paraffin, or a mixture of the two – are being marketed as treatments for numerous health conditions. Marketers of ear candles claim that the warmth created by the lit device produces suction that draws wax and other impurities out of the ear canal.
The FDA believes there is “no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit” from their use, said Dr. Eric Mann of the agency’s Division of Ophthalmic, Neurological, and Ear, Nose and Throat Devices. He adds that some manufacturers claim their products are appropriate for use on small children.
- Starting a fire
- Burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum and middle ear
- Injury to the ear from dripping wax
- Ears plugged by candle wax
- Puncture to the eardrum
- Delay in seeking needed medical care for underlying conditions such as sinus and ear infections, hearing loss, cancer, and temporomandibular joing (TMJ) disorders. (TMJ disorders often cause headache and painful sensations in the area of the ear, jaw and face).
Ear candling is not a safe or effective way to remove ear wax and debris. In fact, wax is actually beneficial to our ears and body. It protects the ear and is anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. If you do experience excessive wax you should talk to your doctor about safe wax removal options. Typically these methods will include a visit to an Ear, Nose and Throat doctor or to an audiologist such as at The Hearing Professionals.