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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 believed to be a good way to reduce earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Earwax Candles, is it Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise logical people? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But although the logical choice is fairly clear, knowing more about the dangers of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

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 risky to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So, after doing some research, you find a method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By sticking a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure difference then sucks the wax out. Any wax that may be clogged up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this dangerous technique is not a good way to clean your ears.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a few issues with this practice, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s just no way for a candle to produce that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would need to be quite substantial indeed). Second, generating that type of pressure difference would require some type of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, the candles that they use in these “treatments” are supposedly special. When you’re done 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. The only problem is that the same detritus shows up in both used and unused candles. So the whole practice amounts to fraud.

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

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

So, you might as well give it a try, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re asking for trouble. Look, it’s very possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it definitely doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

Here are some negative effects of ear candling:

  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most severe cases, call for surgery.
  • You could cause significant injury when you mess around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Extreme burns inside ear. Extreme hearing issues and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most extreme cases, this might permanently jeopardize your hearing.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

The majority of people will never actually need to worry about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. But you could be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Or you could see a specialist who will be able to use specialized tools to get excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your entire person, at significant risk of damage and injury. So maybe it’s time to put those special candles away.