Ear Candles - Utter Made-Uppery or Useful?

Over many years of doing noise assessments and tens of thousands of workplace hearing tests I've frequently come across the same myths understood as fact and one of the most persistent, indeed increasingly so, is ear candles being used to clear ear wax.

You too can look like a right twonk if you stick a candle in your ear and set fire to it.

You too can look like a right twonk if you stick a candle in your ear and set fire to it.

Where does one start with this..? The idea is that you put a special candle in your ear, light it and it draws out all the manky badness from within. Hopi Ear Candles they are called.

They are dressed up in the whole woolly 'alternative therapy' sector, which usually just means 'I want to play at being a doctor but didn't have the aptitude for the training and they won't let me play with the real medicine'.

Hopi Ear Candles are often also given mythical status by proponents as being an ancient or traditional healing method. There are even claims of them being used in Atlantis! How 'traditional' are they? Let's put it this way, the Hopi Tribal Council themselves say that the candles are nothing to do with them, have never been used by them, and have tried to sue the manufacturers to stop using the Hopi name and claiming a link.

To be clear - NO! Putting something in your ear and setting fire to it does not magically clear your ears out. Indeed it is worse than that, every scientific study has not only shown there is no beneficial effect at all, but that they are actually dangerous and more likely to cause harm. Who would have thought sticking something on fire in your ear could cause harm? Clearly not the chanting lentil-munching pseudo-science believing magicial magnetic bracelet wearing muppets who use these things. For example, the medical journal American Family Physician stated:

Ear candling also should be avoided. Ear candling is a practice in which a hollow candle is inserted into the external auditory canal and lit, with the patient lying on the opposite ear. In theory, the combination of heat and suction is supposed to remove earwax. However in trial ear candles neither created suction nor removed wax and actually led to occlusion with candle wax in persons who previously had clean ear canals. Primary care physicians may see complications from ear candling including candle wax occlusion, local burns, and tympanic membrane perforation.

Ear candle residue

So that is no effect, doctors seeing people with increased wax blockage and even burns and burst ear drums from using these things.

And all-praise Canada who have banned the sale of these ridiculous things.

Proponents often point to the CE mark given on the candles as proof that they are certified to do what they claim. CE marking has absolutely nothing to do with verifying claims of effectiveness but merely is a self-certification by the manufacturer that they will not cause harm. 

If you ever hear someone talking about ear candles, take them somewhere private and quiet, and give them a slap!