Ear Candles: Truths, Myths, and Our Experience

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Ear Candles

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.)

Ear Candles 2

“Yay! I’m going to hear better after this, right?”

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.

Ear Candles 3

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…

“Huh?”

“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.”

{cough}

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.

Ear Candles 4

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?

*******

Betsy Jabs

About Betsy Jabs

Betsy holds a bachelor's degree in Psychology and a Master's degree in Counseling, and for nearly a decade worked as an elementary counselor. In 2011 she left her counseling career to pursue healthy living. She loves using DIY Natural as a way to educate people to depend on themselves to nourish their bodies and live happier healthier lives. Connect with Betsy on Facebook, Twitter, and her +Betsy Jabs Google profile.

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Comments

  1. Marie Nolan says

    I have used them with the kids for earaches and the kids do feel a lot better afterwards. Also, I had an incident with my son a couple of years ago. He kept complaining about his ear hurting but whenever I looked at it, and in it, nothing seemed out of the ordinary, after this went on for more than a week I decided to try the ear candles (he didn’t appear to have an earache, but more of a stabbing pain). What happened was nothing short of incredible — after the candle had burnt down I took it out and again looked in his ear….just right inside of his ear was a rather long piece of hay (to be in his ear) once I removed it with a pair of tweezers he was completely pain free – I was thankful to have the candles that day and always try to keep some on hand just in case. BTW, we live on a farm and he always carried the sleeves of hay on his shoulder which is how the hay got in his ear, lesson learned lol

  2. patricia says

    Hi

    I came back on the plane after using the ear candles and no earache. Completely painless. Hubby has looking my ears with the otoscope and he said they are clear! I think he made a mistake when he said there was black wax -it was my back of my ear drum 🙂

    I have no proof the candles suck out ear wax but i can confirm they stop airoplane earache. if i dont use them i am in pain

  3. Mal says

    I REALLY wish I read your article before trying this! My ears hurt and my head is thumping. I thought it was from all the wax being removed, bummer.

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  5. Patricia says

    Hi

    I can only go from experience.

    My first plane trip. I had horrible earache, excruciating on the flight and went deaf for 3 days. So bad i did not want to come back on the plane.

    It happened every time i went on the plane. sweet sucking and nose blowing did not do a thing.

    After the second trip the tinnitus started. I had already asked the doc about it and he said that planes should not cause ear trouble or tinnitus

    I started using ear candles just before the plane trips and i found that my ears felt lighter and a miracle, no plane earache!

    I also used them twice when i went deaf after infections from swimming and straight after using them my hearing returned. I have learnt not to get water in my ears because it makes more wax!

    I cannot explain why it works because i went to the doc and he said i had a massive amount of wax build up. They tried ear drops, syringing with water and lastly out of desperation i paid a private clinic to use a machine that gently heats and then remove with what looks like an ear pick. Afterwards the ENT doctor said my ears were completely clean.The tinnitus disappeared. I bought one of those ear otoscopes and my hubby said my ears were completely clean. I did not use the ear candles. Went on the plane again and horrible earache again! I had taken a couple of ear candles with me and used them before boarding the flight back. No earache! My ears always feel better / clean and airy. Its been a couple of months (no ear candles used except one set for the plane 2 months ago ) and my ears have started buzzing again and my hubby looked in them and he said there is black wax! My hubbys ears are clear , he has never had ear trouble. My ear trouble started from my first flight. I think damaged ears produce excess wax. I cannnot explain why the ear candles work to stop my plane only ear ache.
    Most people do not have ear wax, i am the only one in my family with the problem , so if they don’t work for you its because you do not need them. I would like to find another way to stop my airoplane ear ache but so far , oil drops and syringing do not work. I am going to use the ear candles before my next flight and use the otoscope before and after to see the difference if any.

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      You made a good point about, “if they don’t work for you it’s because you don’t need them.” Neither of us has any ear problems (besides my hubby’s selective hearing…hehehe), so I’m not surprised we didn’t notice any immediate results. 🙂

  6. Beverly says

    I had horrible earaches growing up and my mom used everything she could find. The only thing that ever worked was hydrogen peroixde. and lots of it. She would pour in and make me stay still until I could no longer feel the tingles and she would let me drain my ear. repeating the process as many times until finally the ear would pop and It would stop hurting. My kids had the same issues earaches just as bad. I chose the doctor office alot. They kept telling me I should have tubes put in thier ears.. Well that just wasnt something I was comfortable with. I used hydrogen peroixde as my mom did but when the ear was clean I would put clove oil in there ears. it has a very good affect on the intense pain. If they had the earaches after swimming I would use 1/2 alchol and 1/2 peroixde..I also found that if your prone to swimmers ear when your done playing in the water put 1/2 cap alchol in ear and you avoided getting an earache 99% of the time.

  7. Nicole says

    Haha!!! This blog post has me cracking up!! I’m a hearing aid dispenser, and I’ve always heard so manu crazy things from “they really work!” To someone who actually burned his eardrum. I’ve always been wary though, as NOT ONE SINGLE PATIENT has ever come back to let me look in their ear after they had it done, even tjough I’ve asked about fifty different people to do so. Even a good friend never filled me in on her experience. However I didn’t want to just dismiss the option the like most “medical” people do. So thank you for your research!

    So how to get it out… I tell all of my patients this and the ones who follow through love it. First of all you can stop by any of your local hearing aid clinic and just have them look in your ears to see if you have build up. You wouldn’t need an appointment and none of is mind doing it. There’s a hearing center in most costco’s (where I work). But even if you skip that step… put olive oil in uour ear every night a week to a week and a half, fill your ear up. Then let it sit for a good fifteen minutes. Put a cottonball in and go to sleep. Afteer a week of doing this flush the ear with luke warm water. You can use a syringe water pick, even the shower can work. Try to do it over a bowl so you’ll see it come out. Then you can always stop by again and have them look. Ask if they have a video otoscope so you can see it too. Ask them to show you the wax and expalin the different parts of the ear.

    Also, just so’s you know… the Eustachian tube has no wax it runs from the back of your throat to your middle ear. This is totally different from your ear canal which runs from the outside of your head to your ear drum. Just past the ear drum is the Eustachian, but no wax ever gets past rhe ear drum. Wax is a protector of the ear, it moves foreign objects back toward the opening of the canal, and is actually a bug repellant! Too cool huh? Sorry to have rambled on here, I hope some of thia helps.

    ~Nicole

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Thank you for commenting and sharing your expertise Nicole! Also, thanks for clarifying about the Eustachian tube and eardrum. Lol! You must have REALLY been cracking up at the part in the article where I quoted some of our conversation about these parts. 🙂 Btw…very interesting fact about ear wax being a bug repellant!

    • Patricia says

      HI.

      Could you explain then why i had a big lump of brown wax very long with perfectly round nobbles on the end in my candle, like a bunch of grapes. . It looked like a tube. It could not have been out of my Eustachian tube then

  8. Del says

    Very interesting,reading all your comments,reminded me I have an old mountain recipes and remedies book,that say’s for an earache use warm cat urine in your ear.First of all How would you get the urine from the cat ? Second just thinking about using it would cure me instantly,third think about the poor kids this might have been used on.LOL

  9. Gini says

    I enjoyed reading this since I’ve thought about doing this myself. Arguably, however, my favorite part of the post is the picture of Obi Wan Kenobi getting ear candeled. Thanks 🙂

  10. Carole says

    I have tried ear candles in the distant past with no particular lessening of ear wax in the outer ear. I later read various sources that debunked their use for that purpose. My GP suggested regularly letting warm water flow into each ear during showering. Now I never get any build up at all.

  11. Gracie says

    When I was a teenager, my mom had me get this done. She was convinced I wasn’t hearing well because I kept forgetting to do all the chores she instructed me to do which I claimed to have no knowledge of. We went down to the health food store and the lady there did one ear. Absolutely no wax showed up in the candle. Next ear. Again, absolutely nothing. They were so puzzled and astonished.
    My mom told me she thought the lady must not have known what she was doing. Perhaps so. But I just thought it was funny. I’m pretty sure there was never anything wrong with my hearing. I just wasn’t paying attention when mom told me what chores to do. Typical teenager…

    Anyway, I have been wondering about this whole ear candle business ever since. I shall look into it more…

    • Betsy JabsBetsy Jabs says

      Great story Gracie! You had me laughing…I think all mom’s of teens can relate to your mom who was trying everything she knew! Lol!

      I definitely encourage you to look into ear candling more, knowing that it’s not intended for wax removal, but can have other benefits. 🙂

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