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

There’s a lingering idea in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to reduce your earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

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

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you aren’t sure how to remove all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you start looking for a substitute and come across this method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You generate a pressure differential by inserting the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, in theory, 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 a few issues, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. You would need a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of producing that amount of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the kind of seal needed to hold pressure.

Now, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found inside the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

Earwax candling has never been proven by science to have any benefit at all.

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

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

Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a potential that you might cause serious harm 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 removal.
  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools down. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in severe cases.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can lead to extreme hearing problems and burns. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most serious cases.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

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

If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could use 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 of the way.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a means to clean your ears.

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