Hearing Health Blog

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

In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is routinely believed to be an effective way to minimize earwax. Does ear candling work and what is it?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise logical human beings? That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you discover about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the logical choice is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have an excessive amount of earwax and you aren’t quite sure how to eradicate it. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clean out your ears, generally speaking). So you begin looking for an alternative and stumble on this technique known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By jamming a candle in your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be log-jamming in your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are a number of problems with this process, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to generate that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t have the kind of seal needed to maintain pressure.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposedly special. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the middle, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that had previously been in your ear. The only issue is that the same debris shows up in both used and unused candles. So the entire practice amounts to fraud.

Scientific research has never been able to prove any benefit involving earwax candling.

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

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

Here are a few negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Your ear can be badly burned. Significant hearing issues and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax inside of your ear. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.
  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal after it cools down. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.
  • Whenever you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a chance that you could trigger significant injury and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. Eliminating a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of danger and risk.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of circumstances you will never even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good about cleaning themselves! But you could be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out due to too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) methods to do that properly. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Another solution would be to see a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage 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 method to clean your ears.

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