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

In some communities, the practice called “ear candling” is routinely thought to be a good way to reduce earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. They absolutely don’t work.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise reasonable people? It’s difficult to say with much precision. 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 choice is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you have too much earwax and you’re not really certain how to eliminate it. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clear out your ears, in most cases). So, after doing some study, you discover a method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You create a pressure differential by shoving the candle into your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that might be log-jamming in your ear. But this harmful practice is not a good method of cleaning your ears.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has several problems, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply 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, producing that kind of pressure difference would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, the candles that they use in these “procedures” are supposedly 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. The only problem is that the same detritus shows up in both used and unused candles. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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

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

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. Look, it’s very possible that you may try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But there are definitely hazards involved and it’s definitely not safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • You could cause serious injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? Eliminating a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of danger and risk.
  • Candle wax can also block your ear canal once it cools. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in serious cases.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. Severe hearing problems and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most extreme cases, this might permanently compromise your hearing.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

The majority of people will never actually have to be concerned about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. However, there are certain people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or accumulation to deal with.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) means to do that safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another solution 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 doesn’t work, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a method to clean your ears.

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