Evidence of ear candling, also known as ear coning, reportedly dates back to ancient Egypt or India. Ear cones are hollow candles that are used by holistic health practitioners to supposedly extract wax and other impurities from the ear canal. Ear candling is not a medical procedure and upon exploring the end result and the dangers involved, it is clear why ear candling should be avoided.
Ear candles are made from fabric saturated in wax and formed into a hollow, tapered tube. What exactly does one do with an ear candle? The person being candled will sit upright in a chair. The narrower end of the candle is placed gently but snugly into the outer ear canal. The candle is then lit at the other end. The heat and smoke from the burning candle will tug at the ear, causing minor suction. According to the Mayo Clinic, however, ear candling does not work and can be dangerous.
When the candle is burned down to four inches or so, the candle is removed, and the "evidence" presented. When the candle is split open, the inside reveals what appear to be earwax and a powdery substance (purported to be the yeast Candida). The results are designed to prove the efficacy of the procedure. Unfortunately, the results are flawed. If an ear cone is burned alone, without being inserted into an ear, the contents of the candle remains will be exactly the same. The wax is from the candle itself, and the powder is ash from the candle's fabric.
In spite of the dubious effectiveness of ear candling, can it be used safely for entertainment purposes? The answer is no. Some people perform ear candling by having the person lie down with their ear pointing up. This invites hot wax to drip down the candle and into their ear, burning them and possibly causing permanent damage to their eardrum. Candling is unsafe even when the subject is sitting up. Some practitioners use a metal pie tin or plate near the base of the candles a shield to protect the person from burns, but this is no guarantee. Also, there is the obvious danger of the person's hair catching fire. As an added risk, smoke, candle wax and fabric debris are able to enter and remain in the ear after a candling session. According the June 2000 Time Magazine article by Janice M. Horowitz "The FDA considers ear candles hazardous to health".
Earwax is the body's way of protecting and lubricating the ear while keeping germs and dirt out of the ear canal. Removing the wax (which ear candling does not actually manage) opens the ear up to infection. If earwax is visible from the outside of the ear, a damp washcloth can be used to swab it away. At no time should anything be inserted into the ear for risk of damaging the eardrum. If wax build up is severe, a doctor should be consulted for treatment. Ear candling is neither effective nor safe, and should not be considered as a treatment for cleaning the ears.