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

In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is routinely thought to be an effective way to decrease 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 bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise logical human beings? That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the sensible decision is pretty obvious).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have an excessive amount of earwax and you’re not really certain how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start looking for a substitute and discover this approach known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You develop a pressure differential by shoving 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. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that might be clogging up your ear. But this dangerous practice is not a smart way to clean your ears.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

This practice has several issues, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. It would require a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of generating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal required to hold pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “treatment”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located in the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles also. So the whole process amounts to fraud.

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

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

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You may be fine if you try earwax candling. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t risks involved, and it definitely doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

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

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never actually need to be concerned about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. However, there are some people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a professional who will be capable of using specialized tools to clean the excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. 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 considerable danger. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.