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?

*******

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 Facebookand Twitter.

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Comments

  1. Marie says

    I did burn one outside of an ear once. It looks exactly like the ones burned in an ear.

  2. CannedAm says

    After years — YEARS — of outer ear infections (“swimmer’s ears”) I saw a little piece on the evening news about ear candling and thought that would be something to try. First, I went googling and found so many horror stories from medical professionals about third degree burns inside ears, complete loss of hearing, and even candle wax inside the ear! I kept searching, though and the consensus was this was not only completely ineffective but incredibly dangerous. So I did not do it. What I did do was start using ear drops regularly. They were 1/2 vinegar and 1/2 alcohol — 3 drops in each ear. I stopped getting swimmer’s ear infections, but I continued to have wax build up in my ear — so much so that at one point I had a complete blockage in one ear and couldn’t hear out of it! Off to the doctor I went and she explained that while the vinegar and alcohol would kill any bacteria in my ear that would cause the infections (I swim a lot), the alcohol is also eliminating the natural oils that will move wax naturally from the ears and it was just stuck in there. So she flushed my ear with water, got a little bit of wax out of my ear (I could hear again, yay!) and suggested I add an equal amount of olive oil to my ear drop solution. That was last October. So now with my 1:1:1 olive oil, vinegar, alcohol ear drops (still 3 drops per ear a couple times a week) in April — six whole months after I started using olive oil in my drops — wax started moving out of my problematic ear. I’d wake up with chunks of it lining the hole just inside the ear, but outside the ear canal. I never use q-tips on my ears — swimmer’s ear is very painful and qtips actually shove the wax back inside the ear. The ear is made to protect itself and to gently remove excess wax on its own. Only the outer parts of the ear should be cleaned and a washcloth over the tip of one’s finger is adequate.

  3. Chelsey says

    We tried some a few years back because the lady swore by them and told us the whole sucking thing and whatnot. They were very relaxing indeed! We were skeptical so we bought extra to burn outside our ear and it produced the same result as the one on our ear. Till this day I still hear people swear by them. I’m glad you found factual info on them! I will swear by them that the make me feel like I’m listening to a nice campfire.

  4. Marianne says

    You guys make me laugh! I have been doing earcandling for years, one of my friends is an energy worker and ear candler. Lisa was right on, it can help with many different ear issues. My favorite dyi ear treatment for earaches is a clove of garlic warmed up and wrapped in cheesecloth and placed in the ear. Looks weird and smells like garlic but it is very effective! You may have to “carve” the clove so it can fit comfortably in your ear.

    • Heather says

      I tried that this past winter with the garlic — it was horrible! Stung like a b!tch! Didn’t work for me at all!

  5. Ashley says

    My youngest son had tons of ear infections as a baby. The doctor had us pour peroxide in his ears to help clear up the infection. He said it drains right out and doesn’t hurt. He ended up having to get tubes in both ears and the ENT said he produces a lot of wax. He said to help with that once a month put a few drops of sweet oil (they sold it there) in each ear to help loosed up the wax so you can clean it easier. He said you can also use olive oil but make sure extra virgin because it has less particles in it. I’ve noticed that 2-3 days after the drops big chunks of wax start coming out/sliding down to where you can see them and clean them out. It does seem to help.

    • Lisa says

      I use sweet oil as well in my ears and it has eliminates the pain and ringing I was having in my ears. I noticed there is a lot more wax when I clean my ears. I thought that the extra wax was just a side effect of all the allergy congestion I have but, duh, it must be the wax draining after being softened by the sweet oil. Thanks for pulling the pieces together for me.

  6. Amy says

    I have had this done by a homeopath and it worked like a charm. Felt great, ears were unstuffed and clean, and there was tons of stuff in the cone. When I tried it myself, I got the same results you did. Didn’t help at all. Could be something to do with the candles themselves or with the application.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, I’m not trying to discredit the use/benefits of ear candles…I bet application by a trained homeopath would be much better. We went into it with misconceptions and no knowledge of its true benefits.

  7. Cne says

    I’ve never heard of ear candles before this post! But when I saw the title, I thought it was going to be related to something my family does. See, I’ve watched my aunts before, when they have an ear ache, put a lit cigarette up into their ear. According to them, the cigarette helps relieve any pressure in your ear, which decreases te pain of the ache. I’ve never tried it, but also haven’t had any ear aches. But I guess I would understand that it could work….I imagine it to be similar to the children’s experiment where you get a boiled egg to somehow squish into a bottle through a small top. The way to get it in is to light a match inside the bottle and seal the top with the egg. When some oxygen (or some kind of gas) burns up, there is less pressure inside of the bottle, so the pressure of the outside air pushes it in! (or it’s sucked in..) anyway, my point is that maybe the cigarettes and ear candles work similarly to that experiment? Maybe that’s why you felt a soothing feeling.. Either way, this post was fun and I now know what ear candles are!

  8. Ruth Goodhart says

    You two are brave! Thanks for sharing your experience. I’ve often thought about trying it myself, but now I think I’ll save my money.

  9. Lisa Robinson says

    I am a certified Homeopath for over 18 years now and have been coning people’s ears for that long and it works wonders! I say if you are going to give an opinion about a subject you should have three legs under your table so it can stand up. Coning has been used for thousands of years by the Egyptians, Indians, Native and from India, Chinese, they even say the people from Atlantis used ear coning. Do you really think they would have used this therapy if there were no validity to it. The Egyptians were far advanced with medical knowledge. No one says it can help your hearing but it can help with many other problems of the ears such as chronic infections, itching of the ears, as a preventative to ear infections, helps with ringing of the ears, sinus problems, lots of benefits, unlike getting water flushed through your ears and having it sit in the ear canal and cause havoc. It is a process, not just using one candle and that is it. Adults typically need to use 2 sets of candles and sometimes three and then repeat again in two weeks depending on the situation. Also using a good ear oil first is important, warm it up put a few drops in the ears, massage a bit before putting the cones in the ears, this helps loosen up the wax. Trying something once and writing that it does not work, well, that is what gives alternative medicine a bad wrap!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I didn’t say they had no benefit…they just didn’t do what we originally thought they were going to do. As I mentioned in the article, “I learned a lot about the ancient practice, and we may even give them another shot (with new, more enlightened expectations) at some point.” Sorry I wasn’t more clear about this in the article!

    • ericjt says

      1. I have friends who know Hopi and other native Americans well and they confirm that native Americans have never used ear candling in their own cultures

      2. The eustacian tube (sp) connects only to the inner ear. Whatever vortex the ear candling allegedly produces cannot reach it to cause it to drain the inner ear.

      3. I had ear candling done some years ago. Months later I developed an ear ache. The clinic washed out my ears and got a lot of ear wax out but also several little balls of hard wax from the ear candles that had fallen into my ear canal. I was also on the verge of an infection in my left ear. The doctor said it certainly blocked the ear canal from clearing itself and could have burned my ear drum causing permanent damage. This certainly doesn’t sound like it’s worth the risk. If I had done another ear candling instead to treat the ear ache it would have done nothing good for me.

      4. The material found in used ear candles has been tested and never found to contain candida or ear wax. If someone opens one up to show you how much it cleaned out your ears they are a charlatan.

      And I wonder how many house fires have been caused by careless use of ear candles.

      There’s no documented evidence that these cones have been used by Egyptians, Indians, Chinese, and certainly not Atlantis. Fools and their money. Sorry.

      If you really want your ears clean and healthy go to a clinic twice a year and have them examined and properly washed out, or do it yourself with the ear cleaning kit you can get at the pharmacy. Especially if you get an ear ache.

  10. Maria says

    Growing up my parents kept our ears clean with peroxide. Let it bubble for a while, drain it, and swab the outside with a Qtip. When my daughter was very small the pediatrician told me to clean her ears with half and half peroxide and alcohol. The alcohol dries out the water that the peroxide leaves. I use this on my whole family, and everyone loves it. They usually request an ear cleaning every couple months. Every doctor who has ever looked in my ears has commented on how good they look.

  11. Kathleen says

    I tried ear candling once. I must say, I think it was worth it for the relaxation factor. My head felt clearer after the experience. Probably psychological, but nevertheless, it was a great experience. I will do it again.

    • Betsy Jabs says

      Yes, very relaxing! And from the ear candle website, it sounds like this is one of the main benefits. We certainly felt all nice and cozy after the experience.

  12. Meri says

    I burned one once. Held it above the sink. Lots of gunk at the unburned opening. My sink didn’t look any cleaner.

  13. Claudia Phillips says

    I love this post. I have used ear candles (occasionally) for years. I love to look at the waxy gunk and pretend it’s ear wax. I have often been tempted to burn a candle out of my ear to see the results, but didn’t want to waste the money. I must say that there have been times when I, a chronic sinusitis sufferer, have been so clogged up that my mucus won’t drain (yuck), my ears felt clogged up, and I had to breathe through my mouth. At such times, ear candling was very effective. I don’t know why. After candling I could feel the drainage begin. It is a lot like when you only punch one hole in a can of pineapple juice (yeah, I’m old) and the juice won’t pour out. But then you punch a hole on the other side and the juice pours out just fine. I don’t know why it works, but it does. Sometimes.

  14. ~Cindy~ says

    A friend who is a Chiropractor was telling me about it one day….I thought it sounded pretty interesting but didn’t try it at the time…Months later I was taking an airplane trip to New York….A couple days before the trip I got an earache…I thought, “oh no, just what I need when getting in a plane.”….Low and behold she came into my place of work to workout and I was telling her about it…She suggested I give candling a try, so I did….The next day I laid on her couch in a dark room and had these long wax sticks in my ears with a paper plate…I’m sure it was quite a picture…lol….I agree with you, it was very relaxing and did sound like a crackling fire, very soothing….When finished she cut open the candles and I saw all the wonderful goo inside…I was utterly amazed…To my relief, my earache was gone…Yep!!!…Gone!!!….A couple days later I hoped that plane and had a wonderful time!!!….

    • ~Cindy~ says

      P.S…..It’s been years since that occured and I’ve been wanting to try it myself on my husband…lol…He creates a TON of wax and would like to experiment on him….lol….But I don’t think he would go for that…:)

  15. tameka says

    I have never used ear-candles. As a child and even a teenager, I was prone to lots of wax build-up that would sometimes cause ear pain. The doctors would take a syringe, fill it with peroxide and inject it into my ears. Out came the gross-looking large and small pieces of wax, along with peroxide. Boy, did everything seem loud after that. I now do it on my own when needed. It works!

  16. Vicky says

    I just read your article about ear candles. I always question the reasoning on it. If you are removing wax with a vacium, why doesn’t it hurt the ear drum which is next in line in the ear? I never used them.
    Usually if my ears get blocked I use q-tips for one. Plus if it is still blocked, I go with Elderberry extract. They are starting to find that most sinus infections and ear problems are viruses not bacterial. It does take a couple of weeks to a month to clear up but it does work on clearing the ears up.
    I think I prefer my candles in a bowl on the table to see, not above my head coming out my ear. Thanks for the article it was interesting.

  17. Lynda says

    I went to a retreat 15 or so years ago where ear candling was offered. I did it and decided it was not for me. Thanks for the post.

  18. Karen says

    The only “natural” ear wax treatment I have ever found it olive oil and some type of heating pad. Put a couple of drops of oil in and lie down on a warmed grain pillow, or heating pad with the affected ear down. It is a good idea to put a washcloth between the ear and the pillow. This softens the wax and lets it drain out. Then you can carefully use a Q-tip to carefully swab out the rest. The “commando” treatment – done by my GP doc on several occasions – is a drop of dish soap mixed with warm water in an adjustable stream Waterpic OR a large barrel syringe. That removed things resembling 1/8 diameter sticks from my clogged ears. You have to be extremely careful if you use the Waterpic, but the syringe works really well. Affected ear side down – probably over a sink.

      • Maggi says

        I always wanted to see what a doc sees when they look in your ears so I went to walmart one day and got one of those ear flash light things and looked in my kids ears …wow gross… both of my kids each had 1 ear that was clogged right up you couldn’t even see the ear drum. I did some research online and came across ear flushing there is lots of info out there.. I fushed out my kids ears with warm water and peroxide using one of those blue bulbs the ones you use to suck snot out of a baby’s nose 🙂 I don’t know what there called… anyway it worked great big chunks were coming out and the ear flash light was great to see if I got it all out. And one more thing not long after that my daughter started swiming at school and her ears hurt after. so I got swimmers ear for her works awsome a few drops all the pain went away in seconds and dryed them out..looked at the bottle to see what was in it 95% isopropyl alchol 5% glycerin. the last ear infection my kids had I used the swimmers are to take the pain way till I could take them the Doc. worked GREAT. oh and now I know they can hear me 😀 Good luck

  19. michelle says

    I always wondered about these too! Thank you for saving me a bit of money! I guess hubby will still get away with his “selective” hearing! LOL!

    • Betsy Jabs says

      I promise to continue looking for a solution to combat the horrible selective hearing ailment that is sweeping through our households! 😉

  20. Missy says

    Thank you for posting this! The lady in the health food store had told me the same thing and I would have bought them if I had had the money! Now I know not to.