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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 a good way to reduce earwax. Does ear candling work and what is it?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do normally reasonable people persistently accept in this pseudo-science. That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty clear).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you’re not sure how to eradicate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you begin searching for a substitute and come across this technique called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You develop a pressure differential by inserting the candle in your ear, wick side out. This pressure differential then sucks the wax out. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are a number of problems with this practice, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. You would need 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, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located in the hollow portion of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only problem is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

Scientific research has been unable to prove any benefit associated with earwax candling.

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

What’s the danger in trying, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You might be fine if you decide to try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But there are definitely hazards involved and it’s definitely not safe.

The negative impacts of ear candling can include:

  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a possibility that you could cause significant harm and put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of danger and risk.
  • Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most serious cases, call for surgery.
  • Your ear can be severely burned. Significant hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most serious cases.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never actually have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you may be one of those people who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out due to excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) means to do that safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a professional who will be able to use specialized tools to clean the extra wax or wax blockages out.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. So perhaps it’s time to put those special candles away.

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