The candling clean-out conundrum

Adrian Northrup

I sat in the reception area of the A La Mode Salon and Day Spa in Hudson and waited for my facial appointment. While I waited, I leafed through the brochure listing all the spa’s services.

Facial: $75 (good thing mine was a gift). Massage: $45 for 30 minutes. Bridal spa packages, hot stones massage, maternity massages, men’s manicures, Tibetan bells, all for prices I as a college student would never consider paying (except maybe for a concert). Then I saw it, ear candling.

I read the description and couldn’t quite figure out what exactly ear candling was. Placing candles by the ears in order to create a vacuum and clean the ear canal.

Did people actually pay to have candles placed by their ears for an hour?

I left the salon a few hours later and forgot about the ear candling. Until this fall, that is.

When my stepmother, Barb, came home from a spa vacation, she brought three sets of ear candles. She kept insisting that the candling was amazing and I would love it if I just tried it. Being adventurous, I decided what the heck; it’s just a little candle placed by my head, right?

I was wrong. Ear candles are made out of a white cloth that is coated with beeswax or paraffin wax. The cloth is then rolled into a slender, hollow cone nine to 12 inches long. The thinnest end of the cone is actually placed in the ear while the wider end is set on fire. Not exactly what I was expecting!

My stepmother got a pillow, laid it down on the floor and told me to lie on my side.

Next she wrapped my head in a towel so that if any ashes fell, my hair wouldn’t start on fire (I started to question my decision to “try something new” when I found out there was a potential to burn my hair. The last thing I wanted was to look like Michael Jackson in that Pepsi commercial).

Barb explained that once the candle was lit, it would burn slowly toward my ear, and as it burned, it would create a vacuum and pull earwax and debris out of my ear. She lit it.

Right away I heard a light snapping noise, like there was a campfire burning in the distance. As the minutes wore on I began to feel a slight change in pressure in my ear. I expected a hard pulling feeling, but the vacuum was gentle. Once the pressure changed, it sounded like I was holding my ear to a conch shell.

There were no huge licking flames like I had expected, rather the candle looked like it was smoldering just on the end. Ashes began forming and it actually looked like I had a giant cigarette sticking out of my ear.

Every few minutes, Barb trimmed away the ashes and I waited. The candle took about 15 minutes to burn within inches of my ear and as I waited, sounds gradually grew faint.
Once I felt the candle grow warm, I knew the flame was near my head and Barb blew the flame out. I sat up and instantly thought I could hear better out of that ear (but later I wondered if it was just because my ear had been plugged for 15 minutes).

Barb told me to cut the cone open and look at what was pulled out in the vacuum.

It was so gross! I was shocked because there was about three inches of orange-ish brown wax that had solidified in the cone. I didn’t think that I had that much wax in me.
I candled my other ear and noticed that I could hear sounds, especially music more clearly. I am convinced that I heard better for the next few days.

The medical community has long debated the actual benefits of this ancient Egyptian practice, but I’m convinced it worked for me. Don’t believe me? Go out and try it yourself.