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 minimize earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise rational human beings? That’s a tough question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you’re not sure how to eradicate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So, after doing some investigate, you discover a method known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling theoretically works: By jamming a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has several problems, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to generate that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be quite substantial indeed). Second, creating that kind of pressure differential would require some sort of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposed to be special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located inside the hollow part of the candle which can be broken up when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles too. So the whole procedure amounts to fraud.

Scientific research has never been able to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

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

So, you may as well give it a try, right? Well, whenever 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 leave completely unscathed. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it definitely doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal after it cools down. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • You could cause severe injury when you mess around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. It’s not worth the danger to try this ineffective technique of wax removal.
  • Severe burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax goes inside your ear, it can result in extreme hearing problems and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most extreme cases.

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

The majority of people will never truly need to worry about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are certain people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If you do need to clean out your ears because of excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) ways to do that properly. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a specialist 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 you should also avoid using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a method to clean your ears.

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