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Ear Candling, Risk or Reward?

Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to improve general health.

Marketers of ear candles advertise them as treatments for:

•    earwax buildup

•    earaches

•    swimmer’s ear or ear infections

•    tinnitus

•    hearing problems

•    sinus infections or other sinus conditions

•    symptoms of a cold or the flu

•    sore throat

•    vertigo or dizziness

•    stress and tension

In 2011, Americans spent $63 million dollars on ear cleaning tools: cotton swabs, drops and ear candling. Even though science has thoroughly debunked ear candling it is being performed by beauticians, alternative therapists, or by patients using kits at home.  One result of the cotton swab usage is the estimated 12 million people a year suffering from impacted earwax.  As a means of clearing out the wax Americans are turning ear candling.

Ear Candling is a procedure in which you put a cone-shaped, a waxy cone-shaped device in the ear canal, and it usually has a plate underneath it between the cone and your ear, and you light it on fire and supposedly it creates a vacuum to pull out impurities. The truth is, it doesn’t a create the vacuum sealed “chimney effect” and it does not draw out impurities and was.  Beneath a gas chromatograph, what is left behind post ear candling is ash and leftover wax from the ear candle…not cerumen, aka ear wax. 

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.  Why do we want to get rid of ear wax anyway?  

As gross as you might think earwax is, there are three main functions that your earwax is going to serve.

1.     One of them is it creates an acidic environment that kills helps kill bacteria and fungi.

2.     It lubricates your ear canal, basically to keep it from drying out.

3.     You need the earwax to keep the bugs out of your ears.

“Ear candling appears to be popular and is heavily advertised with claims that could seem scientific to lay people. However, its claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk. No evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition. On this basis, we believe it can do more harm than good and we recommend that GPs discourage its use.” ~https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2231549/

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