Feeling blocked up and bloated? Over-tired and stressed? Digestive system not functioning optimally? One of the many physical symptoms resulting from a poorly functioning digestive system is a production of excessive ear wax. Now there is an easy way to flush your system of ear wax, whilst detoxing and relaxing all at the same time.
Edzard Ernst, the professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter and co-author of the book Trick or Treatment, published a review article in 2004 in the Journal of Laryngology and Otology entitled: “Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science”. He concluded; “Ear candling is one of those CAM modalities that clearly does more harm than good…..it’s mechanism of action is first implausible and second, demonstrably wrong..in my view, therefore, it should be banned (1)”.
Many scientific studies have been conducted on ear candling, several examining the claim that they remove ear wax. In order to do this, they would need to draw a vacuum. A study by Seely et al., (2) using 2 different brands of ear candles, demonstrated this not to be the case.
The Seely study also contains a clinical arm, where 122 ear nose and throat specialists were surveyed. The authors reported 21 cases of serious injury caused by ear candling. In 6 of these cases, patients temporarily lost their hearing. Other problems reported among the group included, 13 cases of burns, 7 cases where the wax from the candle had blocked the ear canal and 1 case of a punctured ear drum (2).
Based on this evidence and studies conducted by their own laboratories, the Canadian authorities have banned ear candles from sale and import into Canada.
When you look at the evidence, ear candling is dangerous. What part of putting burning sticks in your ears sounds like a good idea to you?
Introducing ear candles!
This week I present to you an alternative modality that encompasses just about every misconception made by CAM, defies the laws of science in every possible way, and above all is dangerous. Most of us would remember our mothers telling us not to put anything in our ears smaller than our elbows rght? I don’t remember her ever mentioning burning sticks, but then why would she, she knew I was not that gullible. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for other people….
What is ear candling?
An ear candle, ear cone or Hopi ear candle is a narrow, hollow cone that has been soaked in beeswax or paraffin and allowed to harden. The process of ear candling involves the patient lying on his or her side while someone else inserts the point of the cone inside the ear. The top of the cone is then set on fire and left to burn for 5 – 15 minutes.
The health claim most often made for ear candling is that the flame creates suction, which draws ear wax out of the ear canal. Proponents say the evidence for this is in the candle itself – when you have finished candling, you cut open the candle to expose the brown waxy mush at the bottom which they claim is ear wax and “toxins”. Promoters also say that ear candling can cure a wide range of medical problems, including ear aches, headaches, sinus pain/infections, sinus pressure, tinnitus, vertigo. In addition, they are said to remove impurities from the ear passages by drawing excess yeast, fungus, and bacteria from the sinuses and lymph glands and even revitalize the chakras. Of course, I could go on, but I think you get the idea…
Yet, absolutely none of this is true.
Ear candling does more harm than good.
I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that good science from proper scientists and doctors has been wasted testing these things. The seminal study on the safety and efficacy of ear candles was published in the journal Laryngoscope in 1996. The authors were particularly interested in the claim that the candles create a vacuum so they used a pressure device to measure changes in pressure for the duration of the burn. In 20 trials with 2 different candle types, they detected no negative pressure at any point during the trial.
In a clinical trial also conducted as part of this study, 4 people (2 with ear wax and 2 without), the authors reported the candles did not remove ear wax as proposed and in fact, in some cases candle wax was actually deposited in patient’s ears (2).
The authors also conducted a survey of 122 ear nose and throat specialists and found 21 cases of serious injury caused by ear candling. In 6 of these cases, patients temporarily lost their hearing. Other problems reported among the group included, 13 cases of burns, 7 cases where the wax from the candle had blocked the ear canal and 1 case of a punctured ear drum (2).
Edzard Ernst, professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter and co-author of Trick or Treatment, published a review article in 2004 in the Journal of Laryngology and Otology entitled: “Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science”. He concluded; “Ear candling is one of those CAM modalities that clearly does more harm than good…..it’s mechanism of action is first implausible and second, demonstrably wrong..in my view, therefore, it should be banned” (1).
The website quackwatch also published a frequently cited article where they illustrate the dangers of ear candling with the following stories;
A Canadian woman who experienced stuffiness in the nose and ear pains while scuba diving went to a local health-food store and was referred to a “qualified” candler. During the “treatment,” she felt an intense burning in her ear. At the emergency room, attempts to remove wax that had dripped from the candle onto her eardrum failed. Surgery was required, and a hole in her eardrum was discovered, which presumably was caused by the procedure. She recovered fully and luckily her hearing was not affected. The practitioner apologized, compensated the woman, and stopped performing ear candling.
In addition, instances of house fires associated with ear candling have been reported in Alaska, one of which led to the user’s death. On January 27, 2005 a 59-year-old woman ignited her bedding when she dropped an ear candle that she was attempting to use the ear without assistance. The candle ignited the bedding then quickly spread to curtains and other combustibles in the room. The woman escaped the fire however, suffered an asthma attack in hospital and later died.
Ear candles are banned for sale or import in Canada, but sold in Australian Pharmacies.
Based on this evidence and studies conducted by their own laboratories, the Canadian authorities banned ear candles from sale and import into Canada. The Health Canada website has this to say about ear candling;
…the sale of this product for therapeutic purposes in Canada is illegal. As well, both Canada and the United States have issued directives that ban the importing of ear candles. Some promoters try to avoid the Regulations by advertising that ear candles are for entertainment purposes only. However, Health Canada maintains that these people are selling the product illegally, for medical purposes, as there is no other reasonable use for ear candles.”
Which makes it even more preposterous that in Australia they are listed with the TGA meaning they can be sold in pharmacies alongside science-based medicine.
This is a complete failure on behalf of the TGA with respect to protecting the public from harm. The Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods Devices lists 13 different types of ear candles including this nonsense, Alternet Detox Spa Series Ear Candles and these from Why Karma Natural Health Products described as “to apply a simple treatment of ear cleansing directly to the ear”. You know, one has to wonder what the role of this clearly constipated government body is in protecting the public from harm when they register this nonsense. You only need make a cursory glance at PubMed, to determine that these things are not only nonsense, but dangerous.
I personally have had experiences with staff in pharmacies regarding these devices, one who old me she wouldn’t recommend then to customers but they sell really well so what can you do, and another who looked at me blankly when I suggested that ear candles have no place in a pharmacy. Of course, I don’t expect a kid with an after school job to know that these things are a scam and worse still, can perforate your eardrums, but I do expect the pharmacist to know. And I do expect the government to not turn a blind eye.
Ear candling does not stem from ancient Indian tribes.
Here’s an example of one ear candle company who have hijacked the history of an ancient Indian tribe to add legitimacy to their product.
The Biosun company claims that their “Hopi Ear Candles are” based on “the formula that is traditional to the Hopi Indians of the USA- cotton, beeswax, honey, sage, chamomile and St John’s Wort. The Hopi who are renowned for their great medicinal knowledge collaborated with Biosun to pass their formula on to the rest of the world”.
Pfft. Well not according to Vanessa Charles, the public relations officer for the Hopi Tribal Council, who has stated there is no such treatment within traditional Hopi healing practices. Vanessa has said that ear candling “is not and has never been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people”. And even though The Hopi tribe has repeatedly asked Biosun, to stop using the Hopi name Biosun has not complied with this request and continues to claim that ear candles originated within the Hopi tribe.
If I have still not convinced you that ear candles are a load of rot, why not become an earconologist? Become a Certified Earconologist with a Correspondence Course from The Awareness Institute and perform a wonderful service to yourself and others. “The course consists of learning about the History of Ear Candling, Ear Anatomy, Candling Procedure, Cause and Effect, and much more”.
It just goes to show, people will believe just about any nonsense.
The take home message:
1) EAR CANDLES ARE DANGEROUS AND STUPID.
2) THEY DO MORE HARM THAN GOOD.
3) THEY WILL NOT REMOVE WAX FROM YOUR EARS.
4) IN SOME CASES THEY HAVE DEPOSITED WAX.
5) DON’T USE THEM.
1. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology. “Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science”. Ernst, E. (2004) 118: pp 1-2.
2. Seely DR, Quigley SM, Langman AW. Ear candles- efficacy and safety. Laryngoscope. 1996: Oct;106(10):1226-9.