A form of alternative therapy which involves inserting a hollow tubular candle into your ear and lighting it. As far as I can gather, as the candle burns down it is supposed to create a vacuum and draw 'debris' out of the ear. But that's not all it's supposed to do. On the 'KiSS Ear Candles' web site, they also include a list of other miraculous benefits which they're clearly itching to claim for their product -- but which they can't quite bring themselves to come right out and claim.

"As manufacturers, KiSS Ear Candles cannot claim that our candles clean out the old debris from the ears; that they have cleared up sinus problems, eliminated sinus headaches, relieved symptoms of allergies, colds, ringing in the ears - in three consecutive sessions, nor... of course that they draw wax and Candidia from the ear (yeast infection by any other name), even though our current customers are affirming all that and more."

The 'KiSS Ear Candles' web page is thoughtfully entitled "Ear Candling - How It Works and Why Bother?", which I'm guessing is a fairly frequently asked question. Ear candling, it turns out, is an ancient art that has been recently rediscovered. "Ear Candles are used to open the higher spiritual centers, Chakras, when striving to develop our more than human senses"

KiSS are good enough to supply a step by step guide, complete with some great pictures of a woman with a candle stuck in her ear. So here's how ear candling is done: essentially, the candle is lit and slipped through a hole in a foil-covered paper plate. The unlit end is then inserted into the ear canal of the 'patient' who is lying on his/her side. When you think they've been completely candled or whatever the verb is for this activity...

"...cut the candle open. View the debris ..."

Mmmm... I feel better already.

KiSS will sell you twelve pairs of their splendid ear candles for just $49.20 plus $6.50 shipping and handling. Perhaps it's just me, but this does seem a rather high price to pay to have your head turned into a particularly unattractive and impractical candle-holder.

KiSS's "Ear Candling - How It Works and Why Bother?" is at http://www.shopmt.com/publicaccess/kissearcandles.asp

SEE ALSO the 'rekindle the romance' cartoon at http://www.specialtybottle.com/~tenzing/ec.html
"Candidia"-free at last!
I once watched a friend candle his ears.

We did, indeed, cut the candle open and view the debris.

The bottom of the candle was filled with nasty, smoky, yellow wax. But, was it earwax? No way to tell, unless we were to burn a candle in a glass and see if it had the same kind of crap in the bottom -- and unless it was a lot cheaper, that wasn't going to happen.

Ear Candles are made of wax-impregnated linen. The theory is that the hot smoke sinks and enters the ear canal, loosening and melting the wax. Then, as the flame consumes the candle, it creates a vacuum, sucking the wax back up into the point of the cone.
It amazes me that anyone with even the slightest bit of common sense thinks that this can actually work. Let me just ask two questions...

1) How much of a pressure differential do you think it would take to suck wax out of your ear?
2) How much of a pressure differential do you think a burning piece of cloth produces?

As for the first one, I don't know but my guess is "a lot". Let's put it this way, if someone were to seal their mouth over your ear and suck, do you think they would get a mouthful of wax? Hell no. And do you think a candle can actually decrease pressure more than someone sucking on your ear? Hell no.

Not enough for you? Ok... Pressure and temperature are related by the ideal gas law, they are directly proportional. However, you're only going to get an increase or decrease in pressure when you change the temperature of a closed system. For example, if you warm the air inside a balloon it will expand and eventually pop. In the case of a candle stuck in your ear, this will not happen. The transfer of heat to the air will excite it, which will cause it to expand. This will create a pressure decrease near the flame where higher density air will rush into. Now, the problem here is that there is a small amount of air inside your ear and a large amount of air outside of it. Air is always going to take the easy way out, so air from the outside environment will flow in to fill the void.

The upshot is, a shop vac doesn't produce enough suction to get wax out of your ear (although it's probably enough to damage your hearing...), there's no way a burning candle will do it. Really, just take the damn candle and put it against your hand and light it. See how much pressure that generates on your hand...

In addition, this has been debunked by Straight Dope and Dr. Dean Edell (search http://www.healthcentral.com for candling). Both of them did tests and found that when the candle was inserting in a jar and an ear, the gunky buildup was the same. Straight Dope also had a subject try it and examined the ear before and after and found no wax reduction. So the whole thing is silly. In addition, melted wax and burning ash in the ear can be a very bad thing, so please don't try it.

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