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

There’s a lingering belief in some groups that a practice known as “ear candling” is a good way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, is it Effective?

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

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the heads of otherwise logical people? It’s hard to say with much precision. But although the sensible decision is fairly clear, understanding more about the dangers of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

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

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You generate a pressure differential by putting the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be clogging up your ear. But this hazardous technique is not a good means of cleaning your ears.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has a few problems, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to produce that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be quite substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t possess the kind of seal needed to hold pressure.

Now, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposedly special. When you’re finished 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 problem is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So the whole process amounts to fraud.

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?

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle near your ears. You might be ok if you decide to try earwax candling. People do it regularly. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are some negative effects of ear candling:

  • Once the wax cools down it can clog up your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • Your ear can be severely burned. Severe hearing issues and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most extreme cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.
  • Any time you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a possibility that you could trigger serious damage and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of danger and risk.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

The majority of people will never actually have to be concerned 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 buildup to deal with.

If you do need to clean out your ears due to too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) means to do that safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another alternative would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at substantial risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.