I have been an enthusiastic ear candler for some years now, using the candles on my whole family as a gentle way to remove excess wax build-up deep in the ear canal, and to eliminate annoying buzzing noises or feelings of blockage. Ear candling, also called ear coning or thermal-auricular therapy, is an alternative medicine which is an ancient and natural therapy handed down by many civilisations. It is believed that the Ancient Greeks were the first to use ear candles - the practice reaching the modern world via the native American Hopi Indians of North Arizona.
On a very simple level, the practice consists of inserting a tube of rolled waxed cloth into the outer part of the ear, forming an airtight seal with the end of the candle. The candle is then lit at the opposite end and is allowed to burn down, emitting a pleasant fragrance as it does so. The process of burning will create a vacuum in the candle and then down to the ear, which will suck out any excess wax or other debris. The warm air pulsating down into the eardrum will soften and loosen any wax inside the ear and also create a sense of wellbeing and relaxation.
~~Otosan versus Biosun ~~
Otosan are an Italian company that produce a range of alternative and natural products for the ear. Although I have used Biosun Hopi Ear candles for a long time, up until now I have never tried the rather more flamboyant Otosan ear candles which are often advertised in the windows of Chinese herbal medicine centres.
The Hopi ear candles were only available in a six pack costing £27 in my local health food shop, so I decided to opt for the cheaper two pack of Otosan candles at £7.99.
Once I had opened the pack, I could clearly see the physical difference between the two types of ear candles. Whilst the Hopi candles are long, narrow and brown in colour, the Otosan candles are much larger, cream coloured and cone-shaped. In addition the Otosan candle pack comes with a circular disc which prevent the possibility of any ash falling onto your face during use. They also have an extra safety device which is a flame-breaking silver ring around the bottom of the cone. This should automatically extinguish the flame without the user having to resort to putting the candle in a glass of water.
Another difference between the two candles is that Otosan candles contain Propolis, which is a natural substance produced and used by bees to stop the spread of germs in the hive, which gives added protection to the ear.
When the candle has burnt down to the safety ring, it should be removed and if necessary put into a glass of water to cool down. In my case, the end of the candle was glowing but not burning when it was removed from my ear. It was still very hot, and I did feel happier putting it into a glass of water to cool down.
One warning note for the Otosan candle is that the metallic safety ring gets very hot indeed, and can burn your fingers if you touch it whilst removing the candle from the ear.
One major difference that I noticed about the Otosan was that it burned down a lot quicker than the Biosun ear candle.
When the candle is in use, the cracking, hissing sound of the burning material can be heard, and this gets steadily louder as the candle burns down. I felt the gentle warm of the air from the candle, and also felt a gentle suction of air movement inside my ear.
The whole experience is very relaxing. The smell produced from the burning candle is mild and soothing and although the crackling from the flame can be initially quite worrying, it is soon got used to. The necessity of a friend to help in the process is essential here, as you cannot see the flame yourself, you do need an observer to reassure you that everything is OK.
The flame coming from the end of the candle is quite large and can be a little alarming, It is bigger than the flame produced by the Hopi Ear Candle.
When the flame is out, it is possible to unwrap the remnants of the candle and see the large amounts of wax inside. Sceptics have claimed that this brown deposit does in fact come from the candle itself, although it looks remarkably like ear wax, but I have never run a test to see if the deposit is still created without insertion into the ear.
The material that I found in the Otosan candle was very different from that found in the Biosun. The Otosan had a small hard plug of wax right at the base of the candle remnant; the unwrapped Biosun candles contain huge, strangely shaped lumps of wax which often appear in a long string. I always believe that the material has been sucked up from my ear - especially as my ears always feel clearer after use. Any ringing disappears and there is often some more wax that comes out later during the night.
The manufacturer recommends using the product every one or two months, but I do not feel the need to use the candles this often to maintain my ear health.
As with most alternative medicine, the practice divides the therapeutic community; some people maintain that the process has no effect at all but others swear that it has a beneficial effect. In October 2007, the United States Food and Drug Administration issued an alert identifying ear candles "dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof", but this rather alarmist declaration seemed to originate merely from the risk of burns from the candle rather than damage to the ear itself. A quick search on the web will bring up hundreds of hits, with apparent evidence to support every side of the argument. The only way to reach a definite conclusion is to try it for yourself - each person's experience seems to be different, but I feel that I benefit immensely from the regular use of ear candles.
I recently wrote a review about one brand of ear candles that we have used to help Dave get rid of the wax that continuously builds up inside his ears. We have used two different brands so now I'll tell you about the other ones. As the principle is pretty much the same there will be similarities between the two reviews - I just thought that I would warn you!
Ever since I can remember my husband, Dave, has suffered from the problem of wax gradually building up in his ears. At regular intervals this would become so bad that it would affect his hearing - at least that's what he told me! LOL! It would also give him a lot of pain if he didn't do something about it as soon as he noticed it and he left it to get too bad. He always used to use Otex ear drops about every six weeks to clear the accumulated wax. This process would take a few days of treatment before his ears were finally clear and the pain would then disappear.
A few months ago my sister suggested that he try using ear candles. A friend of hers had tried them at a homeopathy clinic where the whole thing was incorporated into a relaxation session, but she said that they were also available from health food shops.
I had a chat to Dave and he said that he would like to try them as it would mean that he could clear his ears without actually putting anything alien into his ears.
As I mentioned in the previous review I haven't actually used the ear candles myself but I do feel able to write this review as, because of how they work, I had to be present all the while Dave's ears were being treated and he told me exactly what happened and how he felt.
WHAT ARE THEY THEN?
The ones that I am reviewing today are the Cedar Health Otosan Ear Cones which are currently on sale at Holland and Barrett for £7.49 per pair (one for each ear!).
WHAT DO THEY LOOK LIKE?
The ear cones are about 7 inches in length and are long narrow cones which are about an inch in diameter across the top and are sold in boxes containing two cones. Full instructions for use are included. They are made from something called Propolis which is apparently a natural substance rich in minerals, vitamins and essential oils.
The cones also come with protective cardboard discs through which you insert the cones before use. This means that any ash falling from the top of the cone would land on the disc and not of the patient's skin.
There is also a drop stop device inside the bottom of the cone to prevent anything hot dropping into the ear during the treatment.
This is comprehensive and explains how to use these cones safely - remember there are naked flames involved! The instructions for the ear candles that I have already reviewed advocated lighting candles and burning oils, and making the whole thing a relaxation experience. The instructions for these ear cones are a much simpler affair and just explain how to use the cones. You can of course do all the relaxation stuff as well if you want to.
HOW DO THEY WORK?
The way the ear cones work is quite simple - one end is placed into the patient's ear and the other end is then lit. As the candle burns down, the resulting vacuum created gently pulls the wax from the ear.
If you visualise this process you will see why this cannot be done alone. You must have someone else with you to light the candle and to keep an eye on the naked flame to ensure safety at all times. The position the patient is in during treatment means that it would be impossible for them to monitor the flame or extinguish it safely when the process is finished.
SO WHAT DO WE DO THEN?
First I would advise that you get everything set up before lighting anything! Fill a glass with water so that the cone can be placed into it after use to make sure that it is completely extinguished. Make sure that there is somewhere for the patient to lie comfortably on his or her side.
Feed the ear cone through the protective disc and then insert the narrow end into the patient's ear. The patient can then manoeuvre it until it is comfortable and you can check that it is vertical. You then light the end farthest away from the ear and, I will warn you, it burns with a slightly larger flame than I was expecting!
Unlike the ear candles the ear cones have a patented flame breaking ring set towards the end of the cone so that it would go out naturally if it was not extinguished in time. This of course means that the patient wouldn't get burnt.
The cone burns for about 10 minutes and when I put out the flame I immediately take the cone from Dave's ear and place it into the waiting glass of water to make absolutely sure it is completely extinguished.
HOW DOES IT FEEL?
I will go over to Dave for this bit as I haven't actually tried these yet.
As the flame burns Dave said that he can hear a pleasant crackling sound and a slight hissing from the flame. The flame causes a chimney effect which will create a gentle suction to remove the wax from the ear, although Dave could not feel this happening.
WHAT ARE THE RESULTS?
Well we had to unravel the end of the cone after use just to see what was in there! Well you do don't you? We were both amazed to see a large piece of ear wax, especially as Dave hadn't actually felt anything moving in his ear during the treatment.
Dave did say that the difference is his hearing was obvious as soon as the treatment was complete and now we use either the ear candles or cones about once every four to five weeks to keep his ears wax free. This is much better that allowing the wax to build up until there is a problem with deafness and pain and then having to spend day after day putting drops in the ears until they are finally clear.
There is a website at www.otosan-ear-cones.co.uk which tells you all you need to know about these ear cones. This would be interesting for anyone who hasn't tried ear cones before as there are pictures showing exactly what they look like both when you buy them and when they are in use.
There is also a detailed comparison between the Otosan Ear Cones and Biosun Hopi Ear Candles which would be very useful for anyone who wanted to try something like this but couldn't decide which ones to try.
From a personal point of view we thought they the ear cones and ear candles were as good as one another and would happily use either or both again.
The Ear Cones offer natural solutions to earwax excess, loss of hearing sensation, buzzing, hissing and background noise, unbalanced ear pressure and blocked ear sensation.