(Investigator 165, 2015 November)


Ear candling or ear coning is a non-invasive holistic method that supposedly helps clean out ear wax and other discomforts. Its origins have been traced to ancient Chinese, Mayan and Egyptian cultures, and it is said that when the Europeans first came to North America they learned it from the Hopi Indians.


The middle ear has a cavity between the eardrum and the inner ear. Connecting to that cavity is the eustachian tube.
Any debris, fluid or wax build up in the cavity or eustachian tube will not allow the small bones in the middle ear to transmit sound properly. Ear candling is said to remove the obstruction by convection. It is also believed to work on the physical body by detoxifying the sinus, lymphatic, and other systems through realigning the flow of cranial fluids.

Other benefits attributed to ear cleaning include regulating pressure, assistance with post nasal drip, sinusitis, catarrh, migraines, some forms of hearing loss, restoration of equilibrium, relieving tinnitus, vertigo and Meniere's Disease.


Ear candles are made from strips of pure cotton muslin that have been dipped into a mixture of wax and different herbs such as sage, Swedish bitters, cedar, spearmint, echinacea, golden seal and rosemary. These herbs are believed to contain natural antibiotics and balancing properties.

The process involves placing the narrow end of the candle into the entry of the ear canal while the opposite end is lit. The spiral design of the cone creates a vacuum which draws smoothing smoke into the ear canal, the eustachian tube and into the lymphatic system where, through the process of osmosis, it draws accumulations out into the cone. Some candles are made of beeswax, others a mixture that includes paraffin.

Treatment by professional ear candlers require two visits and cost up to $60 a time.


I was once given some good advice — never put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow. There is no scientific validation of the claims made on behalf of ear candling, and it is difficult to see how an external vacuum can draw anything out from the middle ear when the eardrum separates the two. Furthermore, the eustacean canal is also situated behind the eardrum and drains downwards into the back of the throat.

There are also some contra-indications of ear candles — recent ear surgery, cysts in the ear, mastoiditis, ear drains (tubes), osteosclerosis, ankylosis of the stapes, paracentesis, acquired hearingloss, congenital hearing loss and tumour of the ear.

The harmful effects of candles containing paraffin wax include chronic dermatitis, wax boils, folliculitis, comedomes, melanoderma, papules, and hyperkeratoses. The methyl ethyl ketone used to recover paraffin from crude oil can also cause irritation of the eyes, headaches, dizziness and vomiting. It can also attack the central nervous system and lungs.

Cecil Adams, in an article on ear candling, in the Los Angeles Reader, conducted some experiments in conjunction with two M.Ds. They found no change in the patient's ear, but when the remaining two inches of the candle was sliced open, they found a considerable quantity of brown wax and whitish powder.

The ear candling manual intimated that the powder was candida yeast extracted from the ear, conceding that possibly 1% to 10% was from the used candle. However, when a second candle was sliced open, wax and powder identical to that in the first was found. A con?

Some advertisers include disclaimers in their advertisements. One informs clients that "I am not a doctor and therefore cannot diagnose or make any claims
for healings that may occur".

Speaking with the experience of one who has a build up of wax in the ears which frequently requires removal, I would recommend that a consultation with a G.P. would be more prudent than risking such delicate and important organs to those whose treatment is based solely on belief.


Adams, Cecil. Do Ear Candles Work? In The Straight Dope, Los Angeles Reader, March 17. (No year)

   From:  Edwards, H. 1999 Alternative, Complementary, Holistic & Spiritual Healing, Australian Skeptics