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

There’s a persistent belief in some circles that a practice known as “ear candling” is an effective way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. They definitely don’t work.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable people? It’s difficult to say with much accuracy. But although the rational choice is fairly obvious, knowing more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you have too much earwax and you’re not really certain how to eradicate it. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clear out your ears, in most cases). So you start searching for an alternate and discover this technique known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: You develop a pressure differential by shoving the candle in your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. 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 Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has several issues, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to produce that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be pretty substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t have the sort of seal needed to hold pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located inside the hollow portion of the candle which can be broken up when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only issue is that the same detritus shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

Scientific analysis has never been able 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 try, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You might be fine if you decide to try earwax candling. People do it regularly. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t risks involved, and it definitely doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal once it cools down. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
  • Extreme burns inside ear. Significant hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most serious cases, this might permanently damage your hearing.
  • Any time you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a possibility that you might cause significant damage and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? It’s not worth the risk to attempt this ineffective technique of wax elimination.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Keep Your Ears Clean

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

If it turns out that you have excessive earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Another solution would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your whole person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.

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