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

There’s a persistent belief in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is an effective way to decrease your earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

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

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable people? That’s a tough question to answer. But although the logical decision is pretty clear, understanding more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have too much earwax and you’re not quite sure how to eliminate it. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clean out your ears, generally speaking). So, after doing some research, you find a technique called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: By inserting a candle in your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. In theory, the pressure difference is enough to break up that might be log-jamming in your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has several problems, including the fact that the physics simply 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 need to be quite substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t have the sort of seal required to maintain pressure.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposed to be 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. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. So the entire procedure amounts to fraud.

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

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

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re asking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But there are certainly hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative impacts of ear candling can include:

  • You could cause significant injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. It’s not worth the risk to try this useless technique of wax removal.
  • Once the wax cools down it can clog your ear canal. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
  • Extreme burns to your inner ear. Severe hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most severe cases, this could permanently compromise your hearing.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of circumstances you won’t even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are a few people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or accumulation to deal with.

If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Another alternative would be to see a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles

Main Line Audiology Consultants, PC