|Ear Candling||Jul. 19, 2000|
|Provided by: Special to CANOE|
|Written by: 3|
|"Ear Candling" -- also known as coning -- involves using a cone-shaped device that supposedly cleans out the ear canal with the help of smoke or a burning wick. The procedure supposedly creates a low-level vacuum that sucks wax and other debris out of the canal.
Some proponents even claim that impurities are removed from the inner ear, the facial sinuses, or even the brain itself, all of which they claim are connected to the canal. Proponents also say that candling can relieve sinus pressure and pain; improve hearing; assist lymphatic circulation; regulate pressure; purify the mind; strengthen the brain; relieve pain and fever associated with a ruptured eardrum; cure swimmer's ear and other ear infections; relieve earaches; act as an alternative to "tubes put in your ears"; sharpen the senses of smell, taste, and color perception; stabilize emotions; stop ringing in the ears; relieve dizziness; fortify the central nervous system; clear the eyes; purify the blood; act as an anti-inflammatory, antiseptic, or antibiotic; cure Meniere's syndrome; aid sinusitis; release blocked energy; and reduce stress and tension.
Commercially available ear candles can be made by soaking linen or cotton soaked in wax or paraffin and allowing it to harden. Home varieties include wax-soaked newspaper and cones of pottery into which herbal smoke is blown. Some waxes contain herbs or other substances.
Most instructions direct the person undergoing the procedure to lie on his or her side. A collecting plate is placed above the ear, and the candle is inserted through a hole in the plate and into the ear canal. The candle is lit, and, as the wick burns down, it is often trimmed. After the candle is blown out and removed, a cotton swab is used to remove visible wax from the ear. Package directions typically state that the ear will feel warm but not hot and that the experience will be relaxing or even spiritual.
Ear candling cannot work as advertised. Since wax is sticky, the negative pressure needed to pull wax from the canal would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process.
However, candling produces no vacuum. Researchers who measured the pressure during candling of ear models found that no negative pressure was created. The same investigators candled eight ears and found that no ear wax was removed and candle wax was actually deposited in some in some of them!
The notion that the ear canal is connected to structures beyond the eardrum is false. The external ear canal, with an intact eardrum, is not connected to the brain, the sinuses above the eyes, or the Eustacean tubes (the passageways between the internal ear and the back of the throat). Some candling proponents claim that the eardrum is porous and quickly allows impurities to pass through, this is untrue. The "impurities" that appear in the collected wax (usually on a paper plate or other collecting device) are nothing more than the ashes from the burnt wick and wax of the cone itself.
Candling poses several dangers, the most serious of which involve burning caused by the hot wax. Candle manufacturers claim that their candles will drip only down the outside of the ear, but few direct the user to hold the candle horizontally to prevent this. A few years ago, one of my friends bought some ear candles at a local health-food store and, with help from a friend, carefully followed the package directions. She found that the candling produced a hissing sound similar to that of a conch shell held against the ear, but much louder. However, the air inside her ear became so hot that she had to stop the experiment. A 1996 survey of 144 ear, nose, and throat physicians, found that 14 had seen patients who had been harmed by ear candling, including at least 13 cases of external burns, 7 cases of ear canal obstruction with candle wax, and 1 perforated eardrum.
The London (Ontario) Free Press has reported on a woman who experienced stuffiness in the nose and ear pains while scuba diving, went to a local health-food store, and was referred to a "qualified" candler. During the "treatment," she felt an intense burning in her ear. At the emergency room, attempts to remove wax that had dripped from the candle onto her eardrum failed. Surgery was required, and a hole in her eardrum was discovered, which presumably was caused by the procedure. She recovered fully, and luckily, her hearing was not affected. The report stated that the practitioner apologized, compensated the woman, and stopped performing ear coning.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies candles marketed with health claims as medical devices that are illegal to market without FDA approval, which none of them has. Since 1993, the agency has banned the importation of auricular candles marketed by at least four Canadian companies and warned several companies in the United States to stop marketing them. Despite these actions, ear candles are still widely available.
For most people, ear wax moves along the ear canal and eventually makes it to the outside, taking with it any accumulated dirt or other matter. Compacted ear wax should be removed by a physician or other health professional using legitimate instruments. Drops that soften the wax may make removal easier. Candling is both ineffective and dangerous.
|MORE COLUMNS BY 3|