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

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

Earwax Candles, is it Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise logical people? That’s a difficult question to answer. But although the rational decision is pretty obvious, knowing 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: Perhaps you aren’t certain how to remove all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start searching for an alternative and stumble on this approach called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: By jamming a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are a few problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of creating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t have the type of seal required to sustain pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located inside the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only issue is that the same detritus shows up in both used and unused candles. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

Earwax candling has never been proven by science to have any benefit whatsoever.

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

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

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Significant burns to your inner ear. Severe hearing issues and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most severe cases, this might permanently compromise your hearing.
  • You could cause severe harm when you play around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. It’s not worth the risk to try this ineffective technique of wax removal.
  • Candle wax can also block your ear canal after it cools down. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of circumstances you will never even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are a few people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to see 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 isn’t effective, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So maybe it’s time to put those special candles away.

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