What causes ear wax?
We have been taught in junior-high school health classes that ear wax, or cerumen, is the body's natural defense for trapping foreign microorganisms from entering the inner ear, much like mucus does in the nasal passages, and is even effective in killing certain strains of bacteria. However, alternative health practitioners view ear wax and mucus as the body's excretion due to waste that the lymphatic system otherwise cannot handle, and that ear wax and mucus can be greatly reduced or eliminated by removing excessive amounts of animal protein, dairy products, and refined sugar from the diet and balancing what is consumed with an appropriate amount of dark, leafy green vegetables in their raw state or cooked with light steaming. Persons in athletics, due to their high activity levels, exhibit cleaner lymphatic systems than those on similar diets with sedentary life styles. Some individuals, too, are prone to excrete ear wax relative to their genetic makeup and sensitivities.
Why do we need to remove ear wax?
When the cerumen in the ear canal builds up, it can reduce or block the ear canal and result in earache or loss of hearing. So, individuals not practicing a non-mucus producing diet (commonly referred to as a mucusless diet), periodically need to remove wax from the ear mechanically. And, if ear wax is ignored, it can harden and become difficult to remove.
What's the best way to remove ear wax?
Probably the best method of removing ear wax is to pre-treat the ear canal with a warm (not hot) garlic or olive oil by using an eye dropper to place four drops (4 gtt) to half the eye dropper into each ear. The amount needed will vary. A child, for example, will only need about four drops per ear; whereas, a male adult with a large hat size may require nearly a whole dropper for each.
Once the oil has been inserted into the ears, small, sterile cotton balls--with a twist at one end and large enough at the other to not get pushed into the ear--are placed in the opening of each auditory (or ear) canal to prevent the oil from seeping out before it's had a chance to affect the cerumen. This procedure is done at night just prior to sleep. A clean towel can be placed on the pillow to catch any oil that may leak.
When done over a period of three nights, any hardened ear wax is now soft enough to be removed with an ear syringe by a doctor, especially if the patient is a child. For an adult, rubber syringe bulbs can be purchased at most pharmaceutical outlets, and one can usually treat his or her own ears by squirting a solution of water, hydrogen peroxide, and a mild, liquid soap into one ear at a time. (Recipe of 1/2 c, 1 tsp, and 4 drops, respectively. If hydrogen peroxide is not readily available, rubbing alcohol can be substituted. This is all done over a sink to avoid a lot of cleanup.)
Using the now empty syringe bulb and squeezing it to create a vacuum, the solution (now carrying dissolved ear wax) is suctioned out of the ear. This technique is repeated for the second ear.
How often should I clean the wax from my ears?
This will vary greatly depending on the individual, ear problem tendencies, and lifestyle choices. Some will need to clean their ears weekly; others once a month, yet others every three months. If one has a mastery of eating mainly raw foods with a macrobiotic balance and does periodic fasting, probably no ear wax removal will ever be required. Your physician can determine whether ear wax removal is necessary upon examination.
Author's note: Generally, I don't worry about my ear wax, but sometimes my ears begin to feel a little dirty inside the ear canal. At that time, I simply dip a Q-tip into rubbing alcohol and carefully insert the swab into the ear canal as far as it feels comfortable. As soon as I detect an achy feeling, I stop. Then I gently rotate the swab around the wall of the ear canal as I slowly remove it. This is not the recommended practice because the eardrum can become ruptured or even broken by inserting objects too far into the canal. I am sensitive to my limits, however, and only feel a need to clean the ears two or three times a year at most.
So, what's with ear candling?
I first became aware of ear candling in 1997 while living in Torrance, California. My spouse and I were separated, and I needed a way of bringing an additional income to my full-time, data-entry job. As it turned out, a young man needed help to plastic wrap his wooden candle forms tor the ear cones he was making.
Of course, he held his product in high esteem, and, apparently, he had satisfied customers because his ear candle business was growing. The ear candles were sold primarily in health food markets, in some metaphysical or spiritual book stores, and in other specialty stores focused around the healing arts.
He told me that I should try "candling" and promised he would give me a treatment one day.
I never received the treatment, but recipients claim to feel relaxed and rejuvenated after a session.
A Little Research
No one seems to know when, where, or how ear candling, coning, or thermal-auricular therapy began. One website claims that the practice is hundreds of years old. Another article disclaimed any tradition with the Hopi Indians, who never used the practice and requested that one producer of an ear candling product remove their tribal name from his packaging.
The theory behind the practice is somewhat scientific, inasmuch warm air causes air pressure to decrease at the burning end of the candle. This causes a gentle vacuum that draws ear wax from the ear canal upward, thus removing the ear wax. Of course, if the ear wax is hardened, this is not going to work very well.
Neither she nor I had ever done this procedure before, and the instructions were inconveniently printed on the inner side of the box. However, common sense tells you it's a good idea to have a towel or something around the ear to avoid hot, dripping wax. Also, you're not going to burn the candle until it's completely used because you'd have to burn your hand to do so!
For whatever reason, this lady decided to try a do-it-yourself treatment. She placed herself in front of the mirror at the bathroom sink, so she could see where the flame was at any given point in time (the sink also allowed a means of extinguishing the flaming candle).
The process took about eight minutes. She wanted to see if any ear wax had suctioned out before attempting her other ear. "If it didn't do anything, it would just be a waste of time to do another one," she said.
Observation After Ear Candling
Surprisingly enough, my daughter did not experience any dripping wax on her hand, face, or towel. This may have been partially due to the purity of the soy wax in combination with the cotton gauze giving the cone its form.
In unraveling the inner cotton gauze of the ear candle, there appeared to be a dark brown substance at the base inside the tip. Was this ear wax?
"How does your ear feel?" I asked her.
"Different," she said.
Home Experiment to Tell if an Ear Candle Removes Ear Wax
Wanting to determine whether the brown substance observed was from her ear or the burning material itself, she took a clean, tall shot glass and placed a new candle inside, lit it, and waited for it to burn to where the first candle's distance ended.
After the candle reached about a four-inch height, the flame was extinguished and the candle material was unraveled. No brown substance appeared in the cone tip (above photo).
My daughter did a self-treatment under contrary conditions and felt some relief. She undoubtedly removed some ear wax and alleviated some inner ear pressure, but whether she needs more removed is to be determined by her doctor.
Personally, I will probably never do ear candling, simply because I generally do not get ear wax build up. Everyone is different, though.
Online, I priced an ear candling treatment at $45 under the supervision of a practitioner. Again, whether someone wants to treat himself to such therapy is a matter of individual choice. The frequency, too, for ear cleaning is individual, not necessarily as stated in the video.
Follow your intuitive--if this is something you want to try with reasonable precautions, go for it--it's your choice. Hopefully, the material in this hub will help you make an informed decision. Like anything, a product can be misused with regrettable results, especially when done without any foreknowledge or experience. I consider my daughter lucky. ***
© 2013 Marie Flint
Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on August 10, 2018:
I actually did try using an ear candle and found the experience frightening, as I could not see how far the candle was burning. No one was available to help me, so I stopped the process after a short while. Even so, my ear did feel a little different.
Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on April 07, 2015:
Thank you, Sarah. I'm glad you found the information worthy of reading.
Sarah B from Klamath Falls on April 03, 2015:
Awesome information! I saw the Kardashians do this (I know..) on TV and I thought it was a prank. I wish I could do this without having to have someone else witness it by holding the candle.
Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on April 01, 2015:
Thank you for the visit, rxville. It sounds as if you were already familiar with ear candling/coning. While I wrote the hub to share information, I'm glad you found it more than that. Blessings!
Anita Zhafran from Earth Pharmacy on April 01, 2015:
Sexy hub, Marie Flint! Yes. Ear candle is one of old home remedies for ear wax still used by some modern people.
Evan Smiley on January 04, 2014:
Thanks for the hub! I hadn't ever really understood what ear candling was, but now I think I'd like to try it!
Thelma Alberts from Germany and Philippines on November 08, 2013:
I was trained in the spa in Ireland where I worked a few years ago, in treating clients with hopi ear candling. My boss treated me once with that to experienced how it worked and could tell the clients how it felt to have those treatments. It was an expensive treatment, but the clients who were treated said the hopi ear candling treatments were very good to their ears.
While putting the hopi ear candle with my right or left hand, one of my free hand I used to massage the forehead of the client. That was a relaxing treatment not only for the client but for me as well.
Thanks for reminding me those awesome years working at the spa in Ireland.
ocfireflies from North Carolina on October 19, 2013:
I have often wondered about the candle therapy. Thank you for sharing your experience. I believe I should look at my diet for I do have a problem with the earwax buildup from time to time. V+!
Thanks so much,
Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on October 03, 2013:
I found it interesting that the video happened to be using the "Hopi" brand candles that purportedly caused a bit of a fuss by the Hopi Indian tribe. The producer claims that "Hopi" is his name, according to the video. And, frankly, Wikipedia's information is not always the most accurate.
Although I have never used ear candling myself, I did have a wax treatment once on my hands. I found the experience enjoyable, and my skin felt softer after the treatment.