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

There’s a persistent belief in some circles that a practice known as “ear candling” is a good way to decrease your earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece 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 sensible decision is quite clear, understanding 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 aren’t certain how to eliminate 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 discover this approach known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You generate a pressure differential by cramming the candle in your ear, wick side out. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this harmful practice is not a smart method of cleaning your ears.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has several issues, 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 kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t have the kind of seal necessary to sustain pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “treatment”. When you’re done with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the hollow, 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 too. So this “proof” is actually nonsense.

Earwax candling hasn’t 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, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. You may be ok if you try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But there are certainly hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative impacts of ear candling can include:

  • Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, call for surgery.
  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a possibility that you might cause serious injury and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. Serious hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most extreme cases, this might permanently damage your hearing.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In most circumstances you won’t even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! But you might be one of those people who have an uncommonly heavy earwax production.

If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at significant risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a means to clean your ears.

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