February 22, 2007
Ear candling. It's a holistic, ancient ritual that users and spa technicians swear by.
"It can treat everything from sinus, sore throats, headache, ear ache, anything connected with the head" said one spa technician from the spa at the ACAC.
Spas like ACAC in Charlottesville market ear candling as a service that cleanses the inner ear of toxins. A hollow candle is lit, and placed in the ear, creating what they call a vacuum that sucks out ear wax.
It's not a new practice. It's actually documented that ear candling has been around for hundreds of years, but it is relatively new to spas and salons and seems to be picking up steam.
"It's been on our menu for years but just recently we've noticed people starting to inquire, getting a little bit more interested" said the spa technician.
So we wondered, does it really work? We went to Dr. Paige Powers, with Piedmont Otolaryngology, who got right to the point of our burning question by quickly extinguishing ear candling's claims.
"There are no benefits whatsoever" said Powers.
"It's always surprising to hear the number of people who do this" said Powers.
Dr. Powers says that scientifically, there's just no way that a candle can create enough suction to actually draw out thick ear wax. And to add fuel to the fire, there are actually risks associated with ear candling.
"I've actually had several patients come in after doing ear candling with burns to the ear canal" said Powers
"I've actually had a patient who ruptured the ear drum as a result of the burn to the ear drum" said Powers.
That ruptured ear drum, in non-doctor terms, means the wax from the ear candle actually burn a hole right in the ear drum.
But back at ACAC, where a technician is supervising, our volunteer seems pleased with the process.
"When it was explained to me what it was i was eager to be a guinea pig and it's actually a relaxing experience" said the volunteer.
That is, until our guinea pig sees exactly what came from her ear.
"Do you see that? Yeah. wow, that's all. That came from my ear? yikes! After seeing what came out I'm thinking I should make a regular appointment!" said the volunteer.
While the idea of regular burning appointments isn't music to Dr. Power's ears.
"Wax is protective. we all need wax" said Powers.
If you ignore physicians advice and can't resist the urge to light up, make sure it's done somewhere like ACAC,where it can at least be supervised.
"If somebody enjoys it and understands that it's just for the fun of it, that's ok. As long as they're doing it with somebody who can do it carefully and they understand there's a risk for burn, that's fine" said Powers.
Dr. Powers says an easy, at-home remedy for cleaning out built-up ear wax is to mix equal amounts of rubbing alcohol and table vinegar and use a dropper to put a couple drops in your ear. If you'd still like to try ear candling though most spas will charge you about 50 to 60 dollars.