What is Ear Candling?
Ear candles are classified as an aromatherapy product that claims to improve general health, well-being and remove ear wax. The number of health-related claims that manufacturers of ear candles make is pretty extensive:
- a cure for ear and sinus infections
- earwax removal
- a treatment for cold, flu and sore throat
- vertigo or dizziness relief
- stress and tension treatment
Pretty amazing huh?! So what’s the process of this magical wonder treatment? The aromatherapy process involves lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in your ear canal. Yes, it is that simple.
Apparently, when the tube of waxed paper or gauze burns, it creates a vacuum-like effect just outside your ear canal. The supposed vacuum or difference in air pressure is proclaimed to draw out your earwax and treat other infections and ailments.
Does Ear Candling Work?
Ear candles sound pretty convincing, particularly because a vacuous fire is involved. Perhaps there is just something about the nature of fire that captures our imagination and makes us want to believe ear candling works.
After all the power of the placebo effect can be very convincing. There is no doubt your mind is a powerful healing tool when given the chance.
However, we’re not convinced if positive thinking and a smoldering tube of waxy paper can cure a sinus infection or extract impacted earwax. And neither are medical researchers as they claim, “No evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition.” Moreover, for ear candling the, “claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk.”
The picture below shows ear candle therapy in action. Please note the flammable looking bath robes you should remain well clear of when lighting a fire!
Is Ear Candling Safe?
You can easily purchase ear candles at places that might lend some credibility to their effectiveness and general safety. However, don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. After all, as long as the product is not deemed “defective” the responsibility of safe use is generally with the person using it. For example, an adult can buy a box of safety matches, but if used incorrectly they certainly aren’t safe and can pose a real danger to people and property.
Perhaps the key question with regard to ear candle safety is, are they an unnecessary safety risk to people and property? By unnecessary let’s think about whether there are safer alternatives that don’t involve lighting something on fire and sticking it in your ear.
One alternative is to visit your General Practitioner who may offer ear syringing. Although this is becoming less common as many GPs prefer to refer patients on to clinics that practice earwax removal by microsuction.
Perhaps it’s safer to say most people’s ears are entirely self-regulating. Think of the ear canal as a conveyor belt that efficiently expels excess skin, wax and debris. Therefore most people don’t need to use ear candles, or earbuds, or any other object to “clean” their ears. Your ears clean themselves, in most cases.
In cases where wax becomes “stuck” or impacted, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with Ear Health, or go and see your GP. Your ear canal is very sensitive, and a lot can go wrong if you light fires near it, or start picking inside of it with hair pins or tooth picks.
Why Can I Still Buy Ear Candles If They Don't Remove Earwax?
Ear candles are listed and regulated by the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Although Australia and New Zealand abandoned a plan for a single medical regulatory agency in 2014, Medsafe still works closely with the TGA under a Mutual Recognition Agreement. Under such agreements products like aromatherapy ear candles can be approved for sale in New Zealand by Medsafe if they are listed in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).
The TGA has listed ear candles as, “other therapeutic goods exempt from the requirements of Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP). However, they must comply with Therapeutic Goods Order (TGO) 37 and are subject to post market compliance reviews, recall procedures and therapeutic goods advertising compliance.”
The TGA listing application process for ear candles includes providing the presentation, claims and labeling for the products to demonstrate product safety and that the products are appropriate.
Do you think the listing application process for ear candles has been completed to a sufficient standard? We’re interested to read your thoughts in the comments below.