Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine practice claimed to assist the natural clearing of earwax from a person's ear by lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear canal. According to medical researchers, it is both dangerous and ineffective.
An ear candling session can last from 15 minutes to 45 minutes, during which time a series of 1 or 2 ear candles may be burned for each ear.
In October 2007, the FDA issued an alert identifying Ear Candles (a.k.a., Ear cones and Auricular candles) as "dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof" ... "since the use of a lit candle in the proximity of a person's face would carry a high risk of causing potentially severe skin/hair burns and middle ear damage."
Prof. Edzard Ernst has published critically of ear candles noting that "There are no data to suggest that it is effective for any condition. Furthermore, ear candles have been associated with ear injuries. The inescapable conclusion is that ear candles do more harm than good. Their use should be discouraged.
A 2007 paper in the journal Canadian Family Physician concludes "Ear candling appears to be popular and is heavily advertised with claims that could seem scientific to lay people. However, its claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk. No evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition. On this basis, we believe it can do more harm than good and we recommend that GPs discourage its use.
As of 2008, there are at least two cases in which people have set their houses on fire practicing ear candling, one of which resulted in death.
While ear candles are widely available in the U.S., selling or importing them with medical claims is illegal.
In a report, Health Canada states There is no scientific proof to support claims that ear candling provides medical benefits ... However, there is plenty of proof that ear candling is dangerous. It says that while some people claim to be selling the candles "for entertainment purposes only", the Canadian government consider that there is no reasonable non-medical use, and hence any sale of the devices is illegal in Canada.
The Hopi tribe has repeatedly asked Biosun, the manufacturer of 'Hopi Ear Candles' to stop using the Hopi name. Biosun has not complied with this request and continues to claim that ear candles originated within the Hopi tribe.