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

In some groups, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently believed to be an effective way to decrease earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable people? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you know about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can develop an informed decision (even if the rational choice is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have too much earwax and you aren’t really sure how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you start searching for an alternative and stumble on this technique called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling theoretically works: By jamming a candle in your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure difference then sucks the wax out. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this harmful practice is not a good method of cleaning your ears.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has a few issues, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to generate that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Second, producing that kind of pressure difference would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located within the hollow portion of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. So this “proof” is actually nonsense.

Earwax candling hasn’t been proven by science to have any benefit whatsoever.

So we Know Ear Candling Doesn’t Work But Dangerous is it?

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re looking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you may try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it definitely doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

The negative impacts of ear candling can include:

  • You might cause significant harm when you play around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? It’s not worth the risk to try this ineffective technique of wax removal.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. Serious hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most severe cases, this could permanently compromise your hearing.
  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most serious cases, require surgery.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

The majority of people will never actually need to be concerned about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because your ears are really pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you may be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are techniques that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Or you might see a professional who will be able to use specialized tools to clean the excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at significant risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means 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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