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Doctor warns against ear candling trend

Hinsdale, IL – Dr. Richard Wiet, a neuro-otologist who treats patients at Adventist Hinsdale Hospital, is advising the public not to engage in ear candling, a trendy service now being offered at many suburban health clubs, salons and health food stores, because it can result in permanent ear damage.

Also called ear coning, ear candling is a folk medicine practice marketed as natural way to clear earwax and toxins from a person’s ear. It claims to ease ailments including ear infections, sinus problems and congestion and hearing difficulties – claims that simply don’t pass scientific muster, according to Wiet.

An ear candle is a narrow, hollow cone soaked in beeswax or paraffin and allowed to harden. Massage therapists and hair stylists performing the procedure insert the point of the cone inside the ear of a client lying on his or her side. The top of the cone is then set on fire and left to burn for a few minutes.

Proponents claim the warmth and suction draws earwax out of the ear canal. Often they cut open the candle to let their clients see the amount of wax removed from their ears. In reality, however, the residue inside the candle is beeswax from the candle itself. Hot wax dripping from the ear candle also can burn skin.

“Ear candling is a very dangerous practice being performed by people untrained in the medical sciences,” Wiet said. “Contrary to its claims of healing, ear candling actually can burn or perforate a person’s eardrum, cause ringing in the ears and even cause permanent hearing loss.”

Because of the controversy surrounding the practice of ear candling, Canada has banned the sale of ear candles. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration calls them a “danger to health” (see http://www.fda.gov/ora/fiars/ora_import_ia7701.html) and has cracked down on ear candle companies’ fraudulent marketing campaigns.  Time magazine also has investigated this issue (see “Ear Candling,” by Janet M. Horowitz, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,47112,00.html).

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Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital.  To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.