CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH » EAR
Listen up: Beware of the 'ear candle'
Broadcast: February 22, 2000 | Producer:
Ines Colabrese; Researcher: Jenny Wells
A man undergoes 'earcandling'.
Sandra Yemm of Grimsby, Ont. is a practitioner of ear candling,
and she explains the technique like this:
"It's known as an old home remedy," she explains. "You put
a special hollow candle at the ear and you light it and it
acts like a chimney, like a vacuum pulling up and so it does
pull up and out of the ear."
Ear candling is usually sold as being able to remove the
wax from your ears and generally improve your health. Last
summer, Diane Boehme of Toronto paid a woman $25 for the treatment.
"She told me it was going to clear out earwax," recounts
Boehme. "She told me it was going to clear out yeast. She
told me it was going to clear my sinuses. And she said that
particularly if you're living in an urban environment it helps
to clear out a lot of the debris and pollutants that could
accumulate inside your ear."
Across the country, ear candling is done by just about anyone,
including massage therapists and hairstylists. Health food
stores often sell it as a home remedy. But this seemingly
benign treatment has caused some people a lot of pain.
"I had both ears done and the right ear went fine, didn't
appear to have a problem," recalls Boehme. "And
then the very first few minutes that I was having the left
ear done, some hot wax from the interior of the kettle rolled
into my ear, rolled down through my ear canal, burned my ear
canal and adhered itself to my ear drum."
"Some hot wax from the
interior of the kettle rolled into my ear, rolled down
through my ear canal, burned my ear canal and adhered
itself to my ear drum," recalls Diane Boehme.
It ultimately took a specialist about four months to clear
the wax from Boehme's ear.
Toronto ear-nose-and-throat specialist Dr. Rick Fox first
heard about ear candling when a patient arrived in his office
in incredible pain. The candle had burnt right through his
ear, leaving a chunk of wax lodged in it.
The patient "had suffered a significant burn throughout
his canal and drum," says Fox. "He had perforated his tympanic
membrane so we had to do a surgical repair and graft his drum."
Fox spent that Christmas day reconstructing the man's ear
for a treatment he says doesn't work at all: "Many of the
proponents, they cut open the candle and they show you this
incredible amount of wax. What they don't show you is that
if you don't put it into the ear, and you still light it on
fire and you open it up, it looks the exact same.
"All the junk that's in the candle is simply the beeswax
and the residue," says Fox. "It's not human ear
"All the junk that's
in the candle is simply the beeswax and the residue,"
says Dr. Rick Fox.
Dr. Fox is not alone. One of the world's leading journals
on ear, nose and throat ailments studied ear candling. The
authors of the study concluded:
"Physicians need to be aware of the dangers associated
with ear candle use."
The study also found that ear candles don't and can never
work in removing wax.
Health Canada also tested the candles. It too found they
don't work. In a letter to anyone selling the product, Health
"Ear candles represent a potential health hazard to users
… There is no valid scientific data available to support
any therapeutic benefits associated with the use of ear
Sandra Yemm now says that ear candling doesn't remove the
wax from one's ears. But she says that's not the point:
"You're going to get
some harmony through the changing of the energies and
perhaps that's all that's needed," says Sandra Yemm.
"It doesn't matter whether it's being removed or not because
you're going to get some harmony through the changing of the
energies and perhaps that's all that's needed."
Diane Boehme still has a ringing in her ears that may never
go away. "The people who do this, it's not that they're
necessarily charlatans. It's not that they're trying to rip
you off," says Boehme. "But the fact is, this is a procedure
that is completely and totally ineffectual. It does nothing."
Dr. Fox told Marketplace that, for most people,
the wax in their ears is not a problem. He says a good ear
is like a good oven -- and performs its own self-cleaning.
So the best advice for most people is to just leave your ears
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