I will humbly share a funny story with you today. If you promise not to laugh. Promise? PROMISE?
We took someone else’s word for it. This always gets us in trouble.
Matt and I were in the health food store standing over a display of ear candles. You know the ones? People talk about all the disgusting junk that comes out of their ears, how clean their ears feel afterward, and how well they can hear. We had heard all of this, but never did any research on the benefits or tried them ourselves.
We laugh all the time about feeling like an old 80-something year old couple who can’t hear each other. “What’s that?” “Come again?” “Huh?” It’s frustrating and funny at the same time… and we stood there wondering if the ear candles would finally deliver us from the “feeling-much-older-than-we-actually-are” syndrome we’ve been suffering from for several years.
Low and behold, an unsuspecting shopper… minding her own business. As she grabbed for a few packages of the candles – yup, we thought we had found our potential “expert testimonial” for the product and we fired away with an arsenal of questions.
We were convinced to purchase after she told us how long she had been using them, how well they cleaned her ears out, and how safe they were. (And really, I just wanted to see what repulsive goo would remain in my candle after the treatment. I’m gross like that.)
Our first ear candling experience
We set up a small station, watched the YouTube instructional video to make sure we didn’t burn the house down, and got out the camera. (Yes, I had intended to write a super serious piece on ear health and the superhuman hearing abilities I would have after ear candling – complete with pictures.)
After getting over the fear that my candle was going to burn too quickly and catch my hair on fire if Matt took his eyes off me, I was able to relax. The candle created a warm feeling in my ear. The slight crackle almost sounded like a cozy fireplace. I almost dozed off. With a small torch burning over my head. (Probably the exact reason the instructions strongly suggest using TWO people for this.)
We had a nice relaxing Saturday afternoon as we lit small fires on our couch, just above our very flammable hair, and awaited the promised results.
We couldn’t WAIT to cut open the remaining portion of the burned candles. We hovered over the hollow candle as it was exposed… a powdery, yellowish, laced-with-dark-clumps-of-something, waxy inner residue. We sounded like 3rd graders as we admired the atrocious gunk that had appeared. We weren’t so easily convinced though. It was almost too much. Matt said he wanted to do an experiment during which he would burn a candle outside of his ear to see if this same residue accumulated. Unfortunately, we had used up all of our candles.
You should have heard our deep discussion afterward, acting all science-y, like we knew exactly how the candles worked.
“I suppose I’m not surprised the candle drew so much out of my ear. The Eustachian tube is long and curving, like our intestines, so there was obviously just a lot of wax buildup in there.”
“Well, when the candle is lit, it must produce a vacuum of sorts – pulling stuff out of the ear canal.”
False, and false some more. Good thing neither of us is a doctor or scientist.
In the days that followed, we continued our same communication patterns…
“What did you say?”
“Those candles didn’t work, did they?”
“I don’t feel any different.”
What I later learned about ear candling
As I prepared to write an article on our disappointing (yet relaxing) experience with ear candles, I found some very interesting information. I dug and dug and dug because I still didn’t know what legitimate reasons the manufacturers had for selling this product.
For starters, I found out today the Eustachian tube is only about 1.3 inches long. (Not long and winding like our intestines.) Ooops.
Then I went to the Harmony’s Candles website to find more information about the candles we used. One of the first things I read:
“NO! Ear Candles are not medical devices, therefore, they can not remove objects, including wax, yeast/candida, bacteria and/or fungus from the ear. Ear Candles do NOT create a vacuum. They create a vortex which is a big difference. A simple test proves this: Close the tip of an Ear Candle, burn it down while holding it outside of anyone’s ear – now look and see what is inside. Or you can take another Ear Candle and hold it over salt or sand … there will be NO upward movement.”
Ooops again. Thanks a lot, fellow shopper in the health food store! (Yes, I’m totally blaming it on her.)
So Matt was onto something; we would have found the same unpleasant waxy buildup in a candle burned outside of our ear.
I read on and found more interesting dirt on Harmony’s Candles. Apparently, they are designed as a holistic wellness treatment, meant to be “natural and relaxing,” and in some cases healing. The site stresses the importance of correctly using a candle that is made of quality materials (food-grade wax and unbleached muslin), and making an educated decision about whether candling is right for you. This specific company actually appears to be working hard to debunk any myths and misinformation that may be circulating about ear candles. I respect that. (Apparently there are companies making false claims about the health benefits of using ear candles. This has the FDA up in arms about the product, which is not a medical device.)
I’m sure that candling is a wonderful holistic treatment, when applied properly by someone who has more knowledge than myself. Benefits are most likely not noticed after just one use.
Take note; I’m not poking fun at the candles as a treatment modality, but at the claims people have made about candles as a wax removal tool.
The great disappointment
Mind you, the “disappointment” wasn’t with the candles themselves, but with my own misconceptions. We didn’t get exactly what we hoped for when using the ear candles, but it was a fun little experiment. I learned a lot about the ancient practice, and we may even give them another shot (with new, more enlightened expectations) at some point.
So we don’t have clean ears after all. We can’t hear each other any better. And we will continue to “What?” and “Huh?” each other to death.
Oh well, it provided for a nice little photo shoot and an almost-nap. Next time I’ll smile at the lady in the grocery store and say, “Oh really?” about any product she endorses. Then I’ll quickly come home and Google it.
The upside? You get to learn from our experience.
Have you ever used ear candles? What was your understanding of their benefits?