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

In some groups, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be an effective way to decrease earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Earwax Candles, is it Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do normally logical people persistently accept in this pseudo-science. It’s difficult to say with much accuracy. But although the logical choice is quite obvious, learning more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have too much earwax and you’re not quite sure how to eradicate it. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So, after doing some study, you find a technique known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By inserting a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure difference is enough to break up any wax that may be log-jamming in your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are a few problems with this process, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s just no way for a candle to generate that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be pretty substantial indeed). Second, producing that kind of pressure differential would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposed to be special. When you’re done with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break apart the candle and, in the middle, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that had previously been in your ear. The only issue is that the same debris shows up in both used and unused candles. So this “proof” is actually nonsense.

Scientific analysis has never been able to prove any benefit associated with earwax candling.

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

So, you might as well give it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re asking for trouble. You might be ok if you try earwax candling. People do it regularly. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are a few negative impacts of ear candling:

  • You might 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 your house down, would you? It’s not worth the risk to attempt this useless technique of wax elimination.
  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal once it cools. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in severe cases.
  • Your ear can be severely burned. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can cause extreme hearing problems and burns. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most serious cases.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In the majority of circumstances you will never even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you could be one of those people who have an uncommonly heavy earwax production.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are techniques that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Or you could see a specialist who will be capable of using specialized tools to get extra wax or wax blockages out of the way.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your whole person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.

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