Close up of ear candles that don't work to clean ear wax.

In some groups, the practice known as “ear candling” is routinely believed to be a good way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise reasonable people? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you discover about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed decision (even if the sensible choice is pretty clear).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you have too much earwax and you’re not quite sure how to eradicate it. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you begin looking for an alternative and discover this approach known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By sticking a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a number of problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of generating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the sort of seal needed to maintain pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “procedure”. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break apart the candle and, in the hollow, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that had previously been in your ear. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles too. So the whole procedure amounts to fraud.

Scientific analysis has been unable to prove any benefit associated with earwax candling.

So Earwax Candling Doesn’t Work, But is it Safe?

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. Look, it’s very possible that you could try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it definitely doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Candle wax can also block your ear canal after it cools down. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. Extreme hearing issues and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax inside of your ear. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most serious cases.
  • Any time you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a potential that you could cause serious damage and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? Eliminating a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In most circumstances you will never even need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. However, there are a few people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) ways to do that safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another alternative would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant jeopardy. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a method to clean your ears.

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

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