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What is Ear Coning?

Dana Hinders
Updated May 17, 2024
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Ear coning, also known as ear candling or auricular candling, is a practice that involves inserting a beeswax or paraffin candle-like device into the ear canal in an attempt to extract earwax and other impurities. It is said to have originated in ancient Tibet and been practiced in China, Egypt, India, and pre-Columbian America.

To perform the ear coning procedure, the patient lies on his side with a collecting plate above his ear. The candle is inserted into the ear canal and then lit. After the candle finishes burning, the practitioner uses a cotton swab to remove visible ear wax and apply a special “ear oil” mixture. Most practitioners will then show the patient the residue left over from the procedure, claiming it is excess earwax, dirt, dead skin, toxins, or residue left from previous prescription drug use.

Proponents of ear coning say the practice is a safe and simple home remedy that can help with a variety of ailments. For example, ear coning has been said to relieve sinus pressure, improve hearing, cure swimmer’s ear, stop earaches, and reduce TMJ pain and stiffness. The practice has also been said to reduce stress, stabilize emotions, purify the mind, and strengthen the brain. To maintain maximum health benefits from this form of alternative medicine, practitioners say it is best to perform the ear coning procedure two or three times per year.

However, many medical experts say ear coning is not as safe as practitioners claim. There have been numerous reports of ear canal obstruction with candle wax, external burns, and perforated eardrums occurring as the result of ear coning. Hearing loss is also a possibility when the procedure is done by an inexperienced practitioner.

Because of the risks associated with ear coning, ear candles are illegal in Canada. In the United States, it is illegal to sell ear candles without prior FDA approval. However, there are many websites that still advertise ear candles for sale as well as short courses in the ear coning procedure.

Contrary to popular belief, there is really no need for concern about the dangers of ear wax. In the majority of cases, ear wax and accumulated dirt will gradually move along the ear canal towards the outside of the ear. Ear coning, cleaning your ears with cotton swabs, or performing other outside intervention is unnecessary. However, if the ear wax does become compacted, it can be removed by a physician using specialized medical instruments.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dana Hinders
By Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to her work as a freelance writer. After discovering her passion for freelance writing following the birth of her son, Dana has been a vital part of the WiseGeek team. She also showcases her versatility by creating sales copy and content for e-courses and blogs.
Discussion Comments
By anon132907 — On Dec 08, 2010

I've been using ear coning for years on myself as well as my children. It works great to get out the excess wax and has in my belief kept them from getting infections.

I've seen ears after the doctor's implements are used and they are usually bleeding. When used properly, it warms up the ear (which feels good in itself)then you'll hear clicking (the wax entering the candle) I've looked at the contents after.

The first time I did my daughter's ears it was black, and she was prone to infections. She never got another infection, because if her ears were bothering her, coning was the first thing we did and it worked every time.

By googlefanz — On Sep 25, 2010

See, now I had heard of all these terrible things about ear coning. I heard that somebody tried burning an ear cone by itself, and then one that was actually used on somebody's ear, and that the "residue" or whatever that comes out of the ear is actually just what comes from the cone itself.

It's just like those ear syringes -- not worth wasting your money on. Just use a Q-tip if you're that worried about ear wax!

By zenmaster — On Sep 25, 2010

I have used ear coning and candling for some time at my spa, and have found it quite effective. The danger comes from somebody buying ear coning supplies online and then trying to do it for themselves with just an ear coning video off of youtube for their instructions.

Of course you need the proper training, you can't just do ear coning from pictures -- you need to have training and experience, and any reputable alternative health care professional should be able to demonstrate to you that they've had that training before you even consider letting them treat you.

However, when properly done, I've found that ear candling can be very helpful, as well as relaxing.

By CopperPipe — On Sep 25, 2010

Is ear candling and coning really that dangerous? I had only heard good things about it; a friend of mine said that ear coning was great for her sinuses. Of course, she got her ear coning done at a reputable alternative health practitioners, so that may have made a difference. But even looking at the basic ear coning instructions, it looks like you'd really have to screw it up to be actually dangerous. Whether it's effective or not is another issue, but dangerous? I'm not sure about that.

Dana Hinders
Dana Hinders
With a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication from the University of Iowa, Dana Hinders brings a strong foundation to...
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