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The risks and benefits of ear candling

Sarah Wassner Flynn is a New York City-based writer. She's contributed to magazines such as CosmoGIRL!, National Geographic Kids, Runner's World, Women's Health, Prevention and MetroSports New York. She is also the author of The Book of ...

Got earwax?

Forget Q-Tips. To get rid of extra earwax, many people practice ear "candling" (or "coning"), an alternative medicine technique to clear wax and other debris out of the inner ear. But is ear candling safe? Or even effective? These questions are up for debate. Read on to find out more about ear candling and if it is right for you.

Ear Candling
Walk into your favorite manicure and pedicure stop and you are bound to see "ear coning" or "candling" as an option on the spa menu. While sticking a candle in your ear doesn't sound like a smart thing to do, people swear by this ancient practice to remove built up wax and toxins from the inner ear. Here is some information to help you decide if you want to stick a candle in your ear.

WHAT IS EAR CANDLING?

This ear clearing ritual has been around for thousands of years, from ancient Egyptians to Native Americans having practiced ear candling as a necessary part of their personal hygiene. Today, many holistic centers and spas continue to offer the technique through 15-minute to one-hour sessions that cost around $50.

HOW EAR CANDLING WORKS

An aesthetician will insert a lit, cone-shaped candle, made of muslin and dipped in paraffin, about a quarter-inch into each ear. As the candle burns, warm smoke fills your ear, loosening wax and other debris. A vacuum-effect sucks the wax into the cone, which is then removed from your ear.

RISKS OF EAR CANDLING

If you ask your doctor whether ear candling is a good idea for you, she will most likely respond with a resounding no. Many experts in the medical field say the process is pointless and only invites potential problems like burns to the ear canal, or damage to the eardrum that may cause temporary or permanent hearing loss. Inexperienced practitioners may also slip and burn the outside of your ear or your hair, underlining the importance of seeking out a spa or center with a solid reputation if you plan to try ear candling.

IS EAR CANDLING EFFECTIVE?

Considering the risks, many experts advise against the practice, encouraging less drastic ways to get rid of earwax and debris (like cotton swabs, drops, or other ear-cleaning techniques). However, proponents say it is a safe, simple, and relaxing remedy for many ailments, including sinus pressure, migranes, chronic earaches, TMJ, ringing in your ears (tinnitus), and even stress.

So if you are battling any of these maladies and modern medicine isn't helping you out, you might find relief through this ear-cleaning procedure. But keep in mind there is no proof that ear candling actually works. If you decide to go for it, be sure to go to a respected, high-end facility with experienced practitioners.

Are you into alternative medicine and healing? Check out these related stories:

Alternative healing with the Meridian Flexibility technique

What you need to know about Reiki

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