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

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

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise rational human beings? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But the more you discover about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the sensible choice is pretty clear).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you’re not certain how to eradicate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you begin searching for a substitute and come across this approach known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By jamming a candle in your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up that may be log-jamming in your ear. But this dangerous technique is not a good method of cleaning your ears.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has several problems, like 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 generating that amount of pressure. Second, generating that type of pressure difference would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located in the hollow part of the candle which can be broken up 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 too. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

Earwax candling hasn’t been proven by science to have any benefit whatsoever.

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 anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. You might be ok if you try earwax candling. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it definitely doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, call for surgery.
  • You could cause significant harm when you play around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Severe burns inside ear. Serious 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 serious cases.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In most situations you will never even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. However, there are certain people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If you do need to clean out your ears because of excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) ways to do that safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another alternative would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles

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