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

In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently believed to be an effective way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then do normally reasonable people routinely accept in this pseudo-science. 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 develop an informed decision (even if the rational choice is pretty clear).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you aren’t sure how to eliminate all your built up earwax. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clean out your ears, in general). So, after doing some investigate, you find a technique known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By sticking 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 differential is enough to break up that may be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are several issues with this practice, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to create that type 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 have the type of seal needed to hold pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “procedure”. 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 was in your ear. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles too. So the whole process amounts to fraud.

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

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

So, you might as well give it a try, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re asking for trouble. You may be ok if you try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t hazards involved, and it definitely doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

Here are a few negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal after it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
  • Extreme burns inside ear. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can cause extreme hearing issues and burns. In the most serious cases, this might permanently jeopardize your hearing.
  • Any time you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a chance that you may cause serious harm and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? It’s not worth the danger to attempt this ineffective technique of wax elimination.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never truly need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! However, there are certain people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If it turns out that you have excessive earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Another alternative would be to see a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a technique that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your whole person, at significant risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a method to clean your ears.

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