Ear Candles and Cotton Swabs to Manage Ear Wax: No, No, No!
As we all know, our ear canals produce wax. For some people, ear wax builds up much faster than others. If there is a large amount of wax build up, a temporary hearing loss can result.
What should you do? In the vast majority of cases, the ear canal does not need to be cleaned. While washing your hair or taking a shower, a little bit of soap and water and a washcloth is all that is needed. Usually enough water gets in your ear to loosen the wax and it falls out naturally. A Q-Tip (cotton swab) is usually not necessary.
In fact, if you use a cotton swab improperly, you can damage your ears! Dr. Rod Moser, PA, PhD, called cotton swabs a weapon of ear destruction. Many people use cotton swabs because their ears get itchy—but in doing so, make their ears more itchy, because a cotton swab will scrape off a protective, sealing layer of skin and wax. The result? Dry, itchy skin. In some cases, vigorous use of a cotton swab can result in a ruptured ear drum—a very painful condition.
If you suspect that you have an overgrowth of wax that needs attention, contact a medical or hearing care professional to have the wax safely removed.
What about ear candling?
An ear candle is a narrow, hollow cone that has soaked in beeswax or paraffin and allowed to harden. During ear candling, you lie on your side while someone else inserts the point of the cone inside the ear. The top of the cone is then set on fire and left to burn for a few minutes. People who sell ear candles claim that the heat creates suction, and this draws the wax out of the ear canal.
If suction was truly responsible for removing wax from the ear, then there would be a vacuum created by the ear candle (similar to the suction provided by a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt from your carpet). By definition, a vacuum creates negative pressure. A study in the medical journal The Laryngoscope demonstrated that no negative pressure was created. In addition, the study showed that no wax was removed from the ear canal; candle wax was actually deposited in some ears. The authors of the report, who were medical doctors, conducted a survey of 122 ear specialists, and found 21 cases of serious injury caused by ear candling. Injuries included burns, occlusion of the ear canal, and one person’s ear drum was perforated. Six people had temporary hearing loss created by ear candling.
According to Health Canada, the sale of ear candles in Canada for therapeutic purposes is illegal.
For more information, see the CBC Marketplace story on ear candling.
Photo credit: ©Nickrh
- ABOUT US
- HEAR BETTER
- LIP READING
- CONTACT US
- Communication Strategies
- Use what you know
- Asking for repetition
- Can't hear when people mumble? Get help from the chameleon effect!
- Teach Others How to Help
- Are You Bluffing?
- Get Beyond Small Talk
- Hear Better in Restaurants
- Communication: a two way street
- How to ask for help so that others will "hear" you
- How Should You Remind People About Your Hearing Loss?
- Educating others about hearing loss
- Pretending to Listen
- Hearing Aids
- Hearing Test
- For Significant Others
- For Hearing Care Professionals
- LACE Coaching for Hearing Care Professionals
- Hearing Strategies coaching for hearing care professionals
- Hearing in Noise is the Holy Grail
- Hearing loss and 'all or nothing' thinking
- Case history question: which ear on the phone?
- Client confidence from LACE training
- Happier relationships: role of the hearing care professional
- Customer service
- Adjusting to hearing loss
- Are Restaurants Way Too Loud?
- Dear 16 Year Old Me
- Disclosing Hearing Loss
- My hearing aids don't work well anymore
- Technology and hearing loss
- The best parts of me
- Turning Point with Hearing Loss
- Upside-Down Thinking
- Ear Candles and Cotton Swabs
- Holiday Season and Hearing Loss
- Focus on Starting
Sign up for the HEARa Newsletter
Hearing Health Care Education Forum and Lunch at the National Arts Centre May 7-8 (Ottawa)
Hearing Strategies for Adults (3 hour class) May 11 (Calgary)
CHHA Conference workshop: LACE Up: How Auditory Training Can Help You to Hear Better in Noise May 24 (Edmonton)