Ear Candles

Got to check another line item from my “things to do before I die” list. Amy and I bought a few packs of ear candles several months ago and finally got around to using them. Punch a hole in a pie tin, insert ear candle with tip sticking 3″ below. Lie down, encircle ear with moist towel, snugly insert business end of hollow candle into ear, have your partner light it on fire, and lie there listening to it crackle softly. Kind of soothing, like having a miniature, non-threatening roaring fire inside your head.

About five minutes in, I heard a gurgling, then a kind of soft “whump” sound. Afterwards, found several globules of ear wax sticking to the inside of the candle, a few inches up the remnants of the tip. Not a huge amount, as I’ve heard some people experience, but enough to impress my date, er, wife.

What’s amazing is that it works at all. I mean, I understand the physics of it, but to see wax dislodge, enter the tip of the candle, wander straight uphill three inches, and re-harden again on the inner wall of the candle, is quite amazing. As if the stuff had legs and a desire to get the hell out.

Beyond the magic of the uphill wax walk and the soothing aspect, we weren’t overly impressed, probably won’t do it again. Can’t honestly say I could hear better afterwards. What I want to know is, who ever thought of doing this to begin with? Clearly this wasn’t one of those “accidental discoveries” – someone had to have really sat down and wondered how to extract deeply lodged ear wax, then thought, “I know – gentle heat and a soft vacuum, plus a jigger of capillary action… a hollow candle lighted in the ear would be just the ticket!” Truth is stranger.

Music: Steve Hillage :: Fish Rising

6 Replies to “Ear Candles”

  1. A number of years ago a friend of mine and his then-girlfriend went to India. He read up on a lot of Indian travel tips before they left. One was, “Do not get your ears cleaned if you are from the West.”

    Upon landing the first day they found a guy on a streetcorner cleaning ears. In addition to the normal yellow wax he was removing stuff that was black. Intensely black.

    My friend’s girlfriend thought, “Eww! That’s in MY ears?! Get it out!” and queued up. My friend told her she was probably making a mistake, based on what he had read. She ignored him, and several ounces of nasty black wax crap was removed from her ears by this guy.

    Less than 24 hours later she had a raging inner ear infection.

    It turns out that this black, nasty wax is normal. It coats the inside of the ear and protects the sensitive skin. For Indians who have this removed regularly, the skin becomes more like external dermal layers; becoming a thick barrier. But if the wax remains (as it does in us Westerners) the wax is the bacterial barrier. When she had it removed, there was nothing standing between her inner ear and the microbes.

    It’s nasty, but there it is.

  2. Yikes. Good to know. I’ve suspected similar with normal ear wax — it’s there for a reason, no doubt, and nature has its own way of eliminating the excess over time. Over-hygienation is part of the American way of life, and isn’t always the healthiest route. I’ll let my wax do its own thing from now on (cleaning the non-canal outer ear is safe to do with a Q-Tip, I can leave it at that).

  3. If nothing else, this article is creating some great Google Adsense ads to click on. (I’ve clicked on two so far.) One of them went here:


    The last paragraph on this page says the “ear wax” is in reality candle residue. Seems hard to swallow (yuck) that ear wax would climb out of your ear.

  4. Interesting. But it begs the question of why the wax that climbs out is *exactly* the color of ear wax, while the wax of the candle is clear. One might explain it by saying the candle wax mixes with the smoke, but the match and texture is too perfect. Also the globules that collected were much softer than the wax of the candle. I’m not sure I buy it.

    Here’s an idea: collect the ear wax that bubbles up into the candle, and when you’ve got enough of the stuff, make candles out of it and sell them as “ear candles!”

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