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

In some communities, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be an effective way to decrease 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 think in this pseudo-science. It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you discover about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can develop an informed choice (even if the logical choice is pretty clear).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you’re not sure how to eliminate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So, after doing some investigate, you find a method known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling supposedly works: By jamming a candle into your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. 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 Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

There are several issues with this practice, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to create that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would have to be quite substantial indeed). Second, creating that type of pressure differential would call for some sort of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “treatment”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found 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 problem is you can find this same material in new unburned candles also. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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

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

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle around your ears. You might be fine if you try earwax candling. Plenty of people do. But there are certainly hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most severe cases, call for surgery.
  • Your ear can be badly burned. Significant hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most severe cases, this could permanently damage your hearing.
  • You might cause severe injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn down your house. Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of danger and risk.

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

Most people will never actually need to worry about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you might be one of those people who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a professional who will be able to use specialized tools to get extra wax or wax blockages out.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of injury and damage. So perhaps it’s time to put those special candles away.