Name of treatment

Ear candles (Hopi ear candles, ear cones, auricular candles)

Type of treatment

Physical intervention

Claims for treatment

Claims to remove ear wax, which may be the cause of tinnitus. Other claims for ear candling include treatment of sinusitis, vertigo, glue ear reducing stress..

How treatment is delivered

A hollow tube of fabric that has been wound into a cone shape, soaked in wax is inserted into the ear and lit. This is left lit for several minutes before being removed.

Potential negative consequences

Burns to the face, ear canal or ear drum; injury to ear canal or ear drum; plugging of ears by candle wax; hearing loss.[1]

Evidence offered:

Papers available

8 on ear candles via PubMed

Conclusions drawn

‘…its mode of action is implausible and demonstrably wrong. 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.’[2]

Quality of evidence[3]

D/E

Does the BTA recommend this treatment?

No

BTA opinion on this treatment:

Unsafe and to be avoided

Would the BTA support further studies into this treatment?

No

Verdict: Safety - is this treatment harmful?

Evidence of harm 

Verdict: Efficacy - does this treatment work?

Evidence that it has no effect

[1] Rafferty J, Tsikoudas A, Davis BC. Ear candling: should general practitioners recommend it?. Canadian Family Physician. 2007;53(12):2121–2122.

[2] Ernst, E. Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science. The Journal of Laryngology and Otology. 2004 Jan; 118(10: 1-2

[3] A = Systematic review/meta analysis. B = Randomised control studies. C = Cohort studies. D = Case control studies. E = case studies/reports. +/- to be used to indicate quality within bands

Download this information:

Tinnitus_and_ear_candles_April_2019.pdf

Updated 15 April 2019

Photo: Bjørn Bulthuis from Langley, BC, Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)]