What is Ear Candling?
Ear candling is a gentle treatment for the ears. The process can soothe earache, headache, ear noise and stress. Ear ‘coning’ or candling was considered a rather old-fashioned kind of folk remedy, but has enjoyed a revival in the last decade or so as ’thermo-auricular therapy’. It has the same function – as a method for clearing some of the loose or flaky earwax, dead skin cells or yeast cells from the very external part of the ear. The process may spontaneously ease breathing through the nose, and even improve the sense of smell. Afterwards, most people report a sense of relaxation and pleasurable contentment. It is also claimed to be helpful for a number of ear-related ailments from painful earache to sore throats and dizziness, balance and vertigo.
Biosun, manufacturers of ear candles, stress that they do not claim that the candles can clear out hardened wax, but rather that the vapour and the warmth of the candle and the vibration help to soften and break down the wax which is subsequently flushed away the through the lymphatic system. ‘The treatment is therefore detoxifying,’ they say, ‘ and is still working in the body up to 48 hours after’.
During an ear candling session, while you lie on your side, the practitioner uses special hollow, spiral-shaped cones made of natural fibres, beeswax, herbs and essential oils. The ear cone may or may not have a filter at the bottom. The end of the candle is then carefully inserted into the external ear canal. A protective plate is placed around it, designed to collect any wax drips. The top of the candle is then lit, and allowed to burn.
As it burns, the cone’s ingredients turn to vapour and the airflow creates a vibrational effect. Warmth, vibration and vapour massage the ear canal, it is claimed, and break down any blockages; wax, toxins and other debris are then drawn by gentle suction (the chimney effect) of the burning cone.
The candles used in this process are not birthday-type candles, but specially created for this purpose. Traditional ear candles are hollow cones made from strips of cloth and beeswax – smaller end of cone inserted inside external ear canal, while the larger opening of cone is lit and take 5 –7 minutes to burn down. Some varieties are scented with lavender, rose or orange.
Hopi Ear Candles are so called after the Hopi tribes of North American Indians, who are reputed to have used this technique. A Hopi candle is a hollow tube, made from 100% beeswax and unbleached cotton flax, with a filter at the bottom, about 22mm long and takes about 10 – 12 minutes to burn down. When lit, the idea is that the heat and vibration from the candle smoke draws some impurities out of the ear into the candle where they are burnt and filtered out.
What To Expect
At your first appointment will normally be asked questions about your general health and whether you are taking any medication, in particular if you are taking antibiotics at the time; it is suggested that treatment should be deferred until the course of tablets has finished. The practitioner may then examine your ears using an otoscope (a small magnifying lens with a light inserted into the ear). Certain conditions (such as perforated eardrums or artificial eardrums, recent surgery or a cyst in the ear) would mean that you would not be a suitable candidate for this process.
There should be a clean and comfortable place to lie down, and relax. Some practitioners play soothing music in the background to enhance the relaxing experience. You will be asked to lie on your side with one ear uppermost; the candle is placed over the ear orifice and ignited. As the cone burns, you will experience pressure changes in your ear and may hear a crackling or popping sound. You may also feel a drawing or massaging sensation. As the candle burns down the practitioner trims burnt material or ash.
It is only allowed to burn to within 3-4 inches of the end of the candle. As it burns it produces a gentle local heat. The warm air combined with the oil and herbs are believed to soften the wax and draw it into the base of the candle.
When the stub of the candle is removed from the ear and broken open, the debris revealed. It is claimed “that it is the smoke from the burning candles which dries out the ear canal and stimulates the body’s natural excretion of wax and dead cells, pollen, mould, parasites and other debris”. The amount of wax and other matter will vary from person to person. The treatment is then repeated on the other ear.
Afterwards, you will probably receive a gentle facial massage, focusing on the sinus area. Some practitioners who administer ear-candling sessions use massage, aromatherapy, music, and other relaxation aids.
Benefits and Effects
There are many reasons why clients visit a therapist for ear candling. Individuals suffering from severe ear infections find relief from the pain and pressure associated with earache, and a variety of benefits are reported:
- Ear candling can also decrease the frequency of earaches and ear-related headaches
- The removal of wax and other residue can improve hearing.
- Ear candling is an gentle method of removing excess earwax.
- It has been found to be helpful in relieving pressure in the ear canal and the sinus.
- Dizziness and vertigo may be relieved when wax clears and balance is improved
- Some individuals with an itching or a ringing sensation in the ears find relief through ear candling.
Because the ears, nose, sinuses and throat are connected, ear candling can help with problems associated with these areas. Regulating and balancing the pressure in the ears may give the sensation of a release of pressure in the ears, or a popping sound as the tiny Eustachian tube opens.
People who suffer from a pressure build up when flying feel it especially as the plane comes into land because the air pressure is higher nearer the ground. As the plane descends, an unequal pressure builds up either side of the eardrum and pushes the eardrum inwards causing pain. Candling 48 – 24 hours before flying can keep you pain- free when flying.
Ear pain occurs when the eardrum is tensed and stretched; other symptoms are tinnitus – ringing and dizziness in the ear – headaches, colds, sore throats, glue ear, loss of hearing, snoring and hay fever. Some clients visit a practitioner for help with balance and vertigo problems. Others simply find it a relaxing therapy which can help with stress.
It is not recommended for those with a perforated eardrum or grommets that have been placed in the ear.
Fascinating Facts about Ear Candling
- There seem no indisputable facts about the origin of ear candling, but the legends are legion:
- Greeks apparently used ear candling for cleaning, purifying and spiritual healing around 2500BC.
- Indian tribes are claimed to have blown smoke into the ears through a conical object in order to clear the senses and the mind.
- The use of ear candles to clear wax from the ear canal is claimed to date back to a couple of thousand years BC. And it’s said that the ancients of Egypt, Tibet, China, India, plus the Mayan and Aztec cultures all used similarly designed pottery cones to remove ear wax.
- During the 1980s, Thermo-Auricular Therapy was introduced to the UK and was presented as a new application of Ear Candling. Thermo-Auricular therapy is also known as Hopi Ear Candling and has been attributed to Native American spiritual healing methods.
- Author of ‘Ear Candling & Other treatments for Ear Nose & Throat problems’, and ear candling practitioner Andrew Sceats notes the practice of using 5% sodium bicarbonate eardrops was recommended in 1860, and dates ear candling back to the Assyrians.
- One manufacturer of Hopi Earcandles gives the assurance that only pure beeswax, honey extract and traditional herbs such as Sage, St. John’s Wort, Camomile and pure essential oils are included, and only premium quality, pesticide-free untreated cotton is used. In addition, Hopi Earcandles are regularly tested by independent institutes and are certified medical products according to EC guidelines 93/42 (EEC).
- If an ear candling client is a side sleeper, then it is believed “the up side usually will produce more wax in the candle and often is the ear that caused the initial complaint”.
- American pop singer Jessica Simpson was featured in the New York Daily News who reported on her ‘humorous ear candling experience’. Her report was accompanied by a homemade video showing her apparently applying the treatment to herself, holding a lit candle with a makeshift wax catcher made from an old pizza box. Do-it-yourself ear candling is potentially hazardous and not advised.
- Some research suggests that four percent of patients consult primary care physicians for cerumen impaction and that removal of earwax is the most common ear, nose, and throat (ENT) procedure performed in primary care.
- Safety features: some practitioners, conscious of the controversy around the potential dangers of ear candling, point out to their clients that they use candles that comply with EU regulations, in having a filter to prevent wax falling back into the ears, and also have a red warning line, below which the candle should be extinguished.
- Ear candling can be quite a fragrant experience. Ear candles are available with additives, such as essential oils (Echinacea, tea tree, and eucalyptus, for example), and scents, such as lavender and peppermint. After the candle stub is removed, the outer part of the ear is cleansed with a cotton ball and a few drops of “ear oil” are placed on the outer ear. White Egret ear oil, for instance, contains olive oil, garlic, lobelia and mullein (Beggar’s Blanket).
Auricular Candle Therapy Association
The ACTA is the professional body for those involved in ear candling therapy, states its main aims and intentions, which include:
- To collect, provide and disseminate information on Ear Candle Therapy
- To provide training and development in Ear Candle Therapy to existing complementary therapists
- To maintain a register of qualified practitioners of Ear Candle Therapy for public referral.
It is advisable to choose an Ear Candling practitioner who is a member of, or is accredited by, an association or professional body, to ensure that your Ear Candling session is carried out in a suitable environment and by someone who has received formal training and ongoing development. You can ask to see their diploma and testimonials.
Many practitioners of ear candling are also trained in other disciplines, so you can also check their other credentials.