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CBC MARKETPLACE: HEALTH » EAR CANDLING
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.

Diane Boehme

"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 wax."

"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 Canada wrote:

"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 candles."

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 alone.

NEXT: Health Canada's statement »


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EAR CANDLING: MAIN PAGE HEALTH CANADA'S STATEMENT
MORE MARKETPLACE: BLACK HENNA FUNCTIONAL FOODS MARKETPLACE ARCHIVES: YOUR HEALTH
EXTERNAL LINKS:

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Health Canada: Ear Candling

Ear Candling Fraud - from Healthwatcher.net, a cheeky look at the practice of ear candling

Candles in the ears: help or hazard? - CNN's look at the issue, it too takes a dim view of the practice, although the story does include positive testimonials from people who have experienced candling

The Food and Drug Administration's 1998 alert - FDA warning to government officials handling imports to watch our for ear candles, for which it said "there is no validated scientific evidence to support the efficacy of the product for its intended use"

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