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

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise logical people? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But the more you discover about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can develop an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty obvious).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you aren’t sure how to get rid of 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 most cases). So, after doing some research, you find a method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By sticking a candle in your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this dangerous practice is not a good method of cleaning your ears.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has a few problems, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s just no way for a candle to create that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be pretty substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal required to sustain pressure.

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

Scientific analysis has been unable to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

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

So, you might as well give it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re asking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unscathed. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it definitely doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Any time you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a possibility that you might cause significant harm and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? It’s not worth the risk to attempt this ineffective technique of wax elimination.
  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools down. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • Extreme burns inside ear. Severe hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most serious cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

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

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

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So perhaps it’s time to put those special candles away.

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