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

There’s a lingering belief in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then do otherwise logical people routinely accept in this pseudo-science. It’s hard to say with much precision. But the more you know about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the rational choice is pretty obvious).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have too much earwax and you’re not quite certain how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So, after doing some research, you discover a method called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You develop a pressure differential by shoving the candle in 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 might be clogged 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

There are a number of problems with this practice, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s just no way for a candle to create that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be quite substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal required to sustain pressure.

Now, the candles that they use in these “procedures” are supposed to be special. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break apart the candle and, in the hollow, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that was in your ear. The only issue is that the same detritus shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

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

So Earwax Candling Doesn’t Work, But is it Safe?

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. Look, it’s very possible that you may try ear candling and walk away completely unscathed. People do it regularly. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are a few negative impacts of ear candling:

  • You could cause serious injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? It’s not worth the danger to try this ineffective technique of wax removal.
  • Once the wax cools down it can clog your ear canal. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in extreme cases.
  • Your ear can be badly burned. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can result in serious hearing problems and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Keep Your Ears Clean

The majority of people will never truly have to worry about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. However, there are certain people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or buildup to deal 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. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Another solution 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 clean out earwax. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.

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