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The Potential Dangers of Ear Candling

auriculotherapy-sq-400This is the second blog in our Fact or Fiction series on popular alternative treatments. Dr. Erik Camac is doing the research for you!

Nobody enjoys having a clogged ear because of excess earwax. To remove this waxy substance, some people are trying ear candling, an increasingly popular health fad. So what is it?

Also known as ear coning or thermal auricular therapy, ear candling is done by placing a hollow candle made from fabric coated in beeswax in the external auditory canal of the ear. Then the candle is lit and burned for about 15 minutes while it’s placed in the ear. It’s theoretically used to pull out your wax, which is called cerumen. It can loosen or soften the earwax.

How Does It Work?

There are two dominant theories of how ear candling works. There’s the chimney effect, where the heat creates a vacuum that draws wax out of the ear and the other theory is that the heat melts away your earwax. So after you’re finished with the 15 minutes of burning, you get a brown waxy substance in the candle’s bottom, which is either earwax debris or bacteria.

What Else Does It Supposedly Treat?

Beauticians, alternative therapists, and patients who do ear candling claim it can treat many otologic conditions, such as hearing loss, ear discomfort, sinus problems, infections, tinnitus, vertigo, and that this therapy can even strengthen the brain.

What Are the Dangers?

In the 2007 article on ear candling in Canadian Family Physician, a real mechanism of how ear candling worked wasn’t found. Moreover, the practice was associated with considerable risk.

It’s also dangerous, because it can cause burns, occlusion to the ear canal, temporary hearing loss, otitis externa, and even ruptured eardrum.

Safer Alternatives

“If you’re thinking about doing ear candling, always talk to a physician first, ideally an ear, nose, throat doctor,” said Dr. Camac.

If you have impacted earwax, an ENT has effective ways to remove it.

There are also many OTC earwax removal kits, such as the Debrox brand. The kit contains carbamide peroxide to soften earwax, which can then be removed with the ear syringe bulb.

Conservative Alternative Medicine practices including acupuncture and chiropractic care have long been proven effective in the treatment and prevention of Otitis Media (OM). Though not fully understood, chiropractic has shown effectiveness in treating children with chronic ear infections (OM). The theory behind this is that fluid is drained from the middle ear when the upper cervical spine is adjusted properly. Acupuncture also has a role in preventing by puncturing 4 specific places on the ear with needles. It is thought that the qi (chi) will be put in harmony and have a positive effect on the immunity in the middle ear.

Also, as a history lesson, the first chiropractic adjustment which was performed by D.D. Palmer on Harvey Lillard, a deaf man. D.D. Palmer adjusted Lillard’s dorsal spine and his deafness was cured. That was the birth of Chiropractic!

By skipping the fads and sticking to therapies that are safe and actually work, you’re doing your health a big favor.

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