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By Katherine Baker




An ear candle is a hollow cone which is tapered at one end. It is made from beeswax soaked in unbleached cotton muslin or linen and is around 9-12 inches long.




Ear candling or coning is an alternative therapy treatment which dates back to the year 2500 B.C. Ancient cultures including the Egyptians, Essences, Mayans, Tibetans, Chinese, Indians, and the Orient have shown evidence of participating in this ancient practice. It was a procedure offered only to great warriors, spiritual leaders, or those at the top of the social hierarchy. Some cultures considered ear wax candling to be not only a cleansing of the body but a spiritual cleansing of the mind and sole as well. Many times, this procedure is done in a meditative and calm state. It is still used today all over the world. In fact, in Germany, medical students have to learn about ear candling as a part of their studies.



Ear candling is thought to help eye, ear, nose and throat problems by softening hardened ear wax and removing it.

There are two thoughts as to how the candle eliminates the ear wax.

1...The spiral cone allows smoke to be pulled down into the ear canal and back up. This causes the canal to warm up and consequently loosens the wax and other material. Then the air being drawn up from the inner ear to the outer ear, pulls the loosened wax with it and depositing it into the base of the candle.

2... The smoke and warmth soften the hardened ear wax which allows your body to excrete it naturally. This claim is much more viable since studies show that the wax collected in the bottom of the candle is not ear wax but candle wax.





There are different directions on how to use a candle. Some say to lay on your side and stick the candle up in the air while other tell you to sit up right in a comfortable position and place the candle at a 45 degree angle from you head. The candle is then inserted into the ear gently but firmly to create a seal with the outer ear canal. Then the opposite end is lit on fire. As the candle burns, the patient will experience a crackling sound as smoke and warmth enter the ear. After each inch that the candle burns, scissors should be used to cut the ash away. When the candle is about four inches from the ear, after about 10 to 15 minuets, the candle should be removed and extinguished.





The ear provides different mechanisms to keep itself clean and safe from anything which is not suppose to enter like dirt, tiny bits of plant material, small insects or bacteria. Ear wax is essential in trapping these unappealing things. It is a sticky liquid that is produced by the cerumen glands within the ear. This natural wax can range in color from white to dark brown. It is acidic which helps prevent bacterial and fungal growth. The wax also causes water to bead up and naturally run out of the canal. Normally, the wax hardens and is then moved out towards the opening of the ear where it eventually just falls out, but sometimes wax does not exit the ear properly. This may happen naturally because of overproduction of the wax, drying of the wax, too small of an opening in the ear, or too many fine hairs or cilia in the canal. Sticking anything inside you ear canal such as a cotton swab can also push wax down against the eardrum where it can also get stuck. The ear is an hourglass shape so a cotton swab can push wax into the neck of the ear and clog it.


Symptoms of Wax Build-up

Since the ear canal shares some of the same nerves as those in the throat, ear wax build up can lead to a tickle in the throat and a cough.







I have not been able to find any medical experiment that proves candling removes ear wax. All of them claim that candling does not remove ear wax but may actually deposit it. It seems very improbable that wax is pulled from the ear since the negative pressure needed to pull sticky wax from the ear canal would have to be so powerful that it would actually end up rupturing the eardrum.

Negative Effects

“As an otolaryngologist with 15 years’ experience, I have had more than one occasion on which a victim of ear candling has presented to my office with excruciation symptoms caused by melted wax adhering to the eardrum. This often necessitates minor surgery and puts the patient’s hearing at risk.” Cecil Adams (

A well documented experiment, by Seely DR, Quigley SM, and Langman AW (1996), did a clinical trial with eight ears. The ears were examined before the candling and afterwards. There was no removal of ear wax but there was evidence to suggest the deposition of candle wax. Tympanometic measurements in an ear canal model showed that there was no negative pressure produced within the ear. In a survey of 122 otolaryngologists, 21 ear injuries where found that resulted from ear candling ( Seely, 1996,

An article in the Healing Arts Institute by James Mally, N.D. (1996) also describes an experiment which shows wax can enter into the ear. He placed a candle in a vial about the shape and size of an ear canal and burned it like he had been taught to by different ear candles. When the candle was done, he found powder in the vial. He then cut the candle open to inspect the wax collected at the bottom. He compared it to a candle that was burned in a human ear and found no difference in the amount of wax. He has also inspected clients ears before and after candling and has found more wax in the ear after candling (

Positive Effects

There is one positive result of ear candling that Mally (1996) found. Middle ear infections seem to respond very quickly to ear candling. The vacuum and smoke seem to kill any aerobic bacteria in the ear (





The FDA (1998) does not approve of ear wax candling and has even found them to be unsafe for cerumen removal. In an import alert issued in 1998 the Center for Devices and Radiological Health (CDRH) stated that “The product label is false and misleading in that there is no validated scientific evidence to support the efficacy of the product for its intended use. Also, the label of the product contains inadequate directions for use since adequate directions cannot be written for the product’s use. CDRH considers the product to be dangerous…”(

No only does the medical world unite against candling, but governments do to. Selling candles for the use of ear candling is illegal in Canada and it is illegal to import these candles into Canada and the United States (







Jack L Pulec M.D. (1996) states that “coning candles and the use of Q-tips are two examples of methods to remove wax which are ineffective, cause harm and should not be used by patients (Pulec, 1996).”

So what are some effective ways ?

Pulec and the American Academy of Otolaryngology suggest





After researching about ear wax candling, I decided to go against the data provided by the medical world and try this procedure on myself. I was a little nervous, but really wanted to see for myself if it worked. I did not do it the way most ear candle treatments suggest. Most instructions tell the patient to lie down and stick the candle perpendicular to their ear straight up in the air. Then to relax and let the candle burn down. This position of the candle was how the tests were conducted to detect if wax got into the ear. I used a candle from Wally’s Natural which told me to perform the procedure differently. I sat upright and stuck the candle in at an angle. I could not find any experiments which tested this procedure which makes me feel there may be safer ways to use ear candles which have not been discovered yet. During the burning of the candle, a crackling can be heard. It really does sound like the earwax inside your ear is being broken and pulled apart. There is also a very warm sensation which creeps into your ear within a few seconds of the candle being lit. This is caused by the hot smoke entering your ear. I only did one ear to try and see if I felt a difference. For a few hours after I candled my ear, it felt lighter and less clogged. My ears were also aching a little before and the ear I candled did not ache right after. I don’t think any wax was removed, but it may have been softened. Overall there is not much of a difference between my ears.

While I do feel that the medical community may be biased in their bashing of this alternative medicine and that there may be potential in ear wax cleaning, more reliable research is needed. Right now the only positive evidence for this procedure comes from personal accounts and people trying to sell ear wax candles. There are no medical experiments that support it.




Ernest, E. (Jan 2004). Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science. Journal of Laryngology and

Otology, 118 (1): 1-2.

Pulec, J.L. (Sep. 1996). Cerumen and coning candle chicanery. Ear Nose and Throat Journal , 75(9):574.

Seely D.R., Quigley, S.M., Langman, A. W. (Oct. 1996). Ear Candles - efficacy and safety. Laryngoscope, 106(10): 1226-1229.


American Academy of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery:

American Healing Healthcare Team

Awareness Institute

Body and Soul

DaKara Kies



Grandview Medical Center

Healing Arts Institute

The Medical Consumer’s Advocate

McKinley Health Center

The Straight Dope

Valley Skeptic

Wally’s Natural

Web MD Health

Wilkiverse: A world of knowledge



Psychology Department

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