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

In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is routinely believed to be a good way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do otherwise logical people persistently accept in this pseudo-science. It’s difficult to say with much accuracy. But even though the logical decision is pretty obvious, knowing more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you’re not certain how to get rid of all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start searching for an alternate and come across this method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By inserting a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has several issues, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of generating that amount of pressure. Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would require some type of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “treatments” 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 was in your ear. But the problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. So the entire procedure amounts to fraud.

Scientific research has been unable to prove any benefit involving earwax candling.

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

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you may try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. Lots of people do. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s definitely not safe.

Here are a few negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can result in severe hearing issues and burns. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most severe cases.
  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.
  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a potential that you may cause significant damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of danger and risk.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of situations you won’t even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you may be one of those individuals who have an abnormally heavy earwax production.

If it happens 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 might see a specialist who will be capable of using specialized tools to get extra wax or wax blockages out of the way.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a method to clean your ears.

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