May 19, 2010

Can Earwax Be Made Into a Usable Candle?

Can you make a candle out of ear wax? Well according to a scene in the movie Shrek, it sure can. However, in reality, earwax can not produce a candle that's any good.

This "myth" was attempted to be reproduced by the friendly gang of Mythbusters (a serial show on Discovery Channel), episode 136 (air date: Dec 28, 2009).

Earwax was collected from Tory’s ears and ignited alongside paraffin and beeswax which are two common materials used for candles. The earwax burned with some sparking and sputtering. More earwax was collected from other members of the cast/crew as well as volunteers without much more improvement. In the end, they attributed this poor result to the fact that the earwax material did not melt as smoothly as the paraffin.

What Mythbusters may not have realized is that not all earwax are physically the same. Earwax comes in a multitude of different consistencies as well as moisture content. A better test would be to create an earwax candle trying out these different earwax types to see if it makes any difference.

Other interesting facts:

- I have a few patients who like to take the earwax I remove from their ear to feed their cat. Apparently, cats like to eat earwax!
- There are quite a number of patients who come every 3-6 months to get their earwax removed by me.
- Earwax have different odors. I do not make it a practice to smell them, but sometimes it can't be helped given I'm so close to the ear when removing it.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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