Ear candling (also called ear coning, and auricular candling or coning) is an ancient practice that dates back to the time of the Egyptians in 2500 BC. The exact origin of candling is unknown, but there is a great deal of evidence indicating its use in many different cultures around the world.
Today, candling is a popular alternative therapy used to treat many ailments in the general vicinity of the head. Proponents of candling report astonishing effectiveness at reducing or curing a broad spectrum of ailments. However, critics counter these claims and feel that candling is not only useless but potentially dangerous.
The basic candling technique is very simple and can usually be performed by the average lay person in his or her own home. Many alternative medicine practitioners also offer the service. An ear candle is a long, tapered hollow cone-shaped candle.
They are generally made by dipping a wide cotton wick into paraffin or bees wax, which is then wrapped into the long cylindrical cone shape. Cones can vary in length but are generally between eight and fifteen inches long. One end of the cone will be tapered to a small blunt point, which can then be placed in the ear.
The candling patient should sit or lie in a comfortable position that will allow the ear to be horizontal. A wax guard (which can be as simple as a paper plate with a hole cut into the center) is placed on the candle between the patient and the lit end to catch any dripping wax.
The candle is then lit, and the smaller end is placed in the patient’s ear to begin the candling session. In order to keep the flame from getting too close to the patient’s ear, the last 4 inches of the candle should not be burned.
Proponents of candling believe that the heat of the burning candle creates a mild vacuum. Warm air and smoke circulate into the ear, loosening wax and debris, and then the vacuum caused by the heat escaping the inside of the candle helps to draw out the loosened wax.
In addition to cleansing the outer ear, practitioners also believe that the inner ear, the sinuses, and the brain are all connected to the outer ear and will therefore be cleaned during the process as well. Benefits associated with ear candling are numerous and include: relieving sinus pressure and pain, improving hearing, purifying the mind,
curing ear infections, easing the pain associated with ear infections and other ear aliments such as a ruptured ear drum, aiding sinusitis, releasing blocked energy, cleaning the outer ear, and many more health and spiritual benefits.
Practitioners recommend that a first time patient use multiple ear candles on each ear in succession to thoroughly clean out all the accumulated debris. Ear candling can be done as often as a patient feels it is necessary (duration between candling is generally recommended to be 3-4 months), and practitioners recommend it as part of normal preventative health care.
Skeptics are quick to point out flaws in the ear candling methodology. The first is the claim that candling is able to draw out impurities in the outer ear using a mild negative pressure vacuum. Critics claim that since earwax is sticky, the amount of force necessary to draw the wax out would have to be so great it would rupture the eardrum.
Even the basic ability of an ear candle to create a negative vacuum has been questioned, and many critics feel that no negative pressure at all is created during ear candling. The most controversial aspect of candling is the claim that the inner ear, sinuses, and brain can be cleansed via the outer ear.
Practitioners of alternative medicine believe that the eardrum is a very permeable membrane that easily and readily allows toxins to pass through it and exit the body via the ear. This theory is believed to be untrue by those who adhere to Western medical standards.
There is also a great deal of debate surrounding the spiritual nature of ear candling, and its ability to allow negative energy to escape through the ears and help align the body’s internal energy by purifying the mind.
Critics of ear candling also point out the potential dangers of the practice. The FDA has not approved the use of ear candles as a medical practice since they have not been formally tested and proven effective. Therefore, ear candles can only be sold as a novelty item, not a health item.
Their quality and standards of use are not regulated or monitored by any governing body. It is left up to individual users to ensure their safety, and select a quality product. Even when caution is taken accidents can happen. There have been cases of wax from the candles dripping into the ear canal and causing blockages that must be corrected surgically, and even ruptured eardrums.
Ear candling may or may not be an effective treatment contingent on the beliefs of the user. In any case, it is imperative that the manufactures directions for use be read and followed carefully, or that a competent and experienced practitioner be selected prior to using ear candling as a cure for any ailment.