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

In some communities, the practice called “ear candling” is routinely thought to be an effective way to decrease earwax. Does ear candling work and what is it?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do normally reasonable people routinely believe in this pseudo-science. That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you discover about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the logical choice is pretty obvious).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you’re not certain how to get rid of all your built up earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start looking for a substitute and stumble on this method called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: By inserting a candle in your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a number of problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of generating that amount of pressure. Second, generating that kind of pressure differential would require some sort of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposed to be special. 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. The only issue is that the same debris shows up in both used and unused candles. So the entire practice amounts to fraud.

Scientific analysis has never been able to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

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

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. Look, it’s quite possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it certainly doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Your ear can be severely burned. Serious hearing issues and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most serious cases.
  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal once it cools. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in extreme cases.
  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a potential that you may cause serious damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn down your house. It’s not worth the danger to try this ineffective technique of wax elimination.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

The majority of people will never actually have to be concerned about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are a few people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Or you could see a specialist who will be capable of using specialized tools to clean the extra wax or wax blockages out.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at significant risk of injury and damage. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles

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