Hearing Health Blog

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

In some groups, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be an effective way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then do normally logical people routinely think in this pseudo-science. That’s a tough question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you have too much earwax and you’re not really certain how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you begin searching for a substitute and come across this approach called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling supposedly works: You create a pressure differential by putting the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure difference is enough to break up any wax that might be clogging up your ear. But this hazardous technique is not a smart means of cleaning your ears.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

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 type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would need to be quite substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t have the sort of seal necessary to sustain pressure.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located inside the hollow part of the candle which can be broken up when you’re finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only problem is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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?

So, you may as well give it a try, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re asking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you might try ear candling and walk away completely unscathed. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it definitely doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

Here are some negative effects of ear candling:

  • Any time you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a potential that you may cause serious injury and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. Eliminating a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can result in severe hearing problems and burns. In the most severe cases, this might permanently compromise your hearing.
  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In the majority of situations you will never even need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you could be one of those individuals who have an abnormally heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out due to too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) means to do that safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a professional who will be capable of using specialized tools to get extra wax or wax blockages out.

You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at substantial risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a means to clean your ears.

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