Toss Out The Q-Tips, Bring In The Ear Candles

Anyone who has ever held a job knows that people in the workplace often engage in conversations completely unrelated to work. Recently, a woman in the customer service department at my job has been praising a form of alternative medicine called thermal-auricular therapy also know as ear candling. After overhearing a couple of women talking about how amazing ear candling was, I couldn’t help but involve myself in the discussion.
 
Although I don’t remember what was said word for word, I was basically told that using cotton swabs, or Q-Tips, to clean my ears was not only ineffective at removing the ear wax but it was also very dangerous. Instead I should be using ear candles. Intrigued by this claim, I asked how they worked. Sadly none of the women knew the science behind this technique. They proceeded to tell me how great their ears felt after using them and that the best part was cutting open the base at the end to reveal just how much ear wax was removed from the ear.
 
Instantly something went off in my brain telling me that this was crap but still I asked where I could purchase some of these “amazing” candles. I figured I was going to have to order them online, but I was surprised to find out that they are readily available my local all natural store Bassett’s Health Foods. After work I picked up a tape recorder and went to purchase some ear candles. As soon as I walked in I noticed the candles behind the cash register and quickly got in line to purchase them. In front of me there were 3 individuals standing in line and I was absolutely shocked to watch each person buy 6 candles a piece. “Is this really that popular?” I thought to myself.
 
Just before going up to the counter I turned on my audio recorder and started to play dumb. Below is the actual conversation I had with the two women behind the counter
.
Me: Hi. Some people at my work told me I shouldn’t use Q-Tips but I should
(I was quickly cut off)
Girl 1: Ear candles!
Me: Yes, ear candles. I was just wondering how do they work?
Girl 1: Um (she grabbed one of the candles) you light this end of it (pointing to the top of the candle) and stick this part into your ear canal (the bottom part of the candle) and what happens is it forms a vacuum sucking all the ear wax out of your ear.
Me: So that’s all there is to it?
Girl 1: Basically, I can give you an instruction sheet as well.
Me: Thank you, I will take a couple of those (talking about the ear candles).
Girl 2: Your supposed to use 2 to 3 per ear.
Me: Really? Why?
Girl 2: Because the first one is what we call a starter, but the second and third one are what really cleans the ear.
Me: Alrighty, I will try 4 for now.
Girl 2: It feels amazing.
Girl 1: I know, it really does, I am going to do mine tonight.
Girl 2: You’re really going to love it (talking to me).
Girl 1: Yea, Q-Tips usually push the ear wax back into your ear, so you really shouldn’t use them.
Me: Really? So basically this is just going to form a vacuum and suck the ear wax out instead?
Girl 2: Exactly, but if you have any other questions just ‘YouTube’ ear candling.
Me: Thank you, I will.
Girl 2: Like I said you are going to love it. I didn’t think it would work until I tried it myself and it feels great. When you are done you can open up the candles and look at all the wax it sucked out of your ear. Its really gross.
Me. Yea, that sounds gross. Well thank you again.
Girl 1: Have a nice day.
Me: You too.
 

I thought it was fascinating and very informational that the clerks told me to ’YouTube’ instead of providing me with helpful information. Nonetheless, I went home to try a simple experiment. What I planned on doing was use 2 candles in one ear and set up a box where I could stand up the candles in a similar way as to how they are place in the ear. I wanted to see if these candles really sucked the ear wax out of your ear, or if this nasty orange residue people are seeing can be produced if the candle is not in your ear.
 
So I lit the top of the first candle and laid on the couch sticking the bottom into my ear canal. Immediately my ear was filled with the noise of crackling and popping, similar to listening to a bowl of Rice Krispies. I could feel the heat inside of my ear, and the only thought I kept thinking was “Q-Tips are dangerous? I have a lit candle in my ear.”


 
One thing I didn’t know was that it takes a fairly long time for each candle to burn. It took about 8 to 10 minutes for the candle to reach the point to where it should be extinguished. Though that may not sound like a long time, I promise you, laying there holding one of these candles and hoping to God you don’t accidentally burn your house down in the process seems like an eternity. After the first candle was finished I started the same process for candle number two.


 
After the relief of finishing my ear candling and not burning down my house, I continued to the second part of my experiment. I took a cereal box which I poked two holes into, and carefully set up the remaining 2 candles and lit both at the same time (might as well get both done at once).

When they were finished I carefully extinguished them and placed each set on 2 different napkins and carefully opened them. I wanted to see if the set I used on my ear pulled out ear wax and the second set was clean or if both sets would produce the same results. I opened up the set I used on my ears first, to my amazement I saw the nasty yellow orange residue everyone was talking about. It looked just like ear wax. I moved onto the set that were place in the holes on the cereal box and just as I thought, the same exact results.

This one was used in the ear

This one was used in the ear

These were done in the box

These were done in the box

So unless the cereal boxed produced ear wax, I think its safe to say that this yellow/orange substance is in fact the wax of the candle itself.

After researching a little bit on ear candles I found out that they are said to cure many ailments. These ailments include cleansing the ear of wax, relieving sinus infections, strengthening the brain to stabilizing emotions, aligning your chakras and healing your auras. I also found out in my research that ear candles are actually very dangerous. The major threat associated with using ear candles is the possibility of burning yourself. There is also the possibility that hot wax from the candle may also drip down into ones ear causing obstructions in the canal. Another dangerous and potential irreversible side effect is the perforation of ones eardrum. There has even a reported death by someone using ear candles. A report of a 59 year old woman accidentally ignited her bedding after dropping the ear candle. Although she didn’t die in the house, she did die later at the hospital. Very sad and unfortunate.
 
Besides the dangers of using ear candles, research shows that it is not even possible for the candles to suck the wax out of your ear. The amount of force the candles would have to use to suck out the wax of ones ear would actually cause the ear drum to rupture. These candles don’t even produce any type of vacuum. Furthermore, researchers found that these candles do not remove wax, but actually deposit wax into the ear instead.
 
The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) strongly advises against the use of ear candles because there is no scientific evidence to support any health benefits, even by following the directions. The FDA is also very concerned because some ear candle manufacturers are suggesting the use of this treatment in children and infants. This is extremely dangerous because the ear canals are smaller and children and infants are more likely to move during the procedure.
 
This is very valuable information. I now feel obligated to pass on this knowledge to people who may not know about the dangers associated with ear candles. What started out as just a way to find out if these candles are bunk or not turned into something much more. I hope this finds many readers and opens the eyes of those who use these candles and/or are thinking about using them. They are seriously very dangerous and should not be used under any circumstances.
 
References:
http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/candling.html
http://newyorkcity.injuryboard.com/fda-and-prescription-drugs/ear-candles-and-candling-are-a-dangerous-health-scam-says-fda.aspx?googleid=278518

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