Ear candles are hollow candles inserted into the ear and lit at one end. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary, some believe a vacuum results once the candles are lit and earwax is drawn out from the ear. Methods for "ear candling" vary according to sources. Some involve the person undergoing the treatment to lie with their head down on a flat surface, while others insist the head remain up.
Ear candles are commonly comprised of beeswax soaked in unbleached cotton muslin or linen. They are typically nine inches to a foot in length and taper at one end. They can easily be made at home by dipping muslin or linen in melted beeswax and then wrapping it around a cylindrical object of small girth, typically around a quarter-inch on one side and with a slight taper at the other end to an eighth of an inch.
Ear candles have remained a popular folk remedy for thousands of years to treat eye, ear, nose, and throat conditions. While the wax that is drawn out has been proven to be candle wax, believers in the process state the process warms the wax in the ear canal, allowing the body to excrete it soon after.
Depending on the practitioner's advice, the person undergoing the ear candle treatment lies on their side or simply sits. The head is usually covered with a moist towel, ear exposed and candle inserted. An aluminum pie tin is often employed to catch ash from the burning candle, which is removed once it burns down to roughly four inches from the year. This process takes roughly ten to fourteen minutes. For the head-down position, a hole is usually cut in the pie tin and placed over the ear before the candle is lit.
While it was once thought negative pressure exerted by the flame, i.e. a vacuum, would draw ear wax from the ear, science has proven this is not the case. Moreover, the pressure necessary to draw out ear wax would likely result in a ruptured ear drum.
Ear candling typically results in the deposition of small amounts of candle wax in the ear. Some anecdotal reports ascribe the development of tinnitus to the use of ear candles. One study did find middle ear infections appear to respond quickly to ear candling. However, most studies show minimal health effects and serious potential for accidental bodily harm. The use of ear candles is generally frowned upon by science and medical community.
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