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

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

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

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

Why then do otherwise logical people routinely think in this pseudo-science. That’s a tough question to answer. But although the logical decision is quite clear, understanding more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have an excessive amount of earwax and you aren’t quite sure how to get rid of it. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clear out your ears, in most cases). So you begin looking for a substitute and stumble on this approach called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling theoretically works: By inserting a candle in your ear (wick side out), you create 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 that might be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

This practice has a few issues, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s just 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 have the sort of seal needed to maintain pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “treatment”. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up 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 detritus shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So the entire process amounts to fraud.

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

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

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, any time 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 walk away completely unharmed. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Severe burns inside ear. Serious hearing problems and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most serious cases, this could permanently compromise your hearing.
  • Once the wax cools it can clog your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in serious cases.
  • Whenever you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a potential that you may cause significant harm and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. It’s not worth the risk to try this useless technique of wax removal.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In most circumstances you won’t even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good at cleaning themselves! Nevertheless, there are certain people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to deal with.

If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at substantial risk of damage and injury. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles