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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 an effective way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Is Ear Candling 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 rational people? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you know about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed decision (even if the logical decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have too much earwax and you’re not quite sure how to eradicate it. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clean out your ears, in most cases). So, after doing some investigate, you find a method called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You produce a pressure differential by inserting the candle in your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that may be clogging up your ear. But this harmful practice is not a smart way to clean your ears.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a few issues with this practice, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to create that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be quite substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t possess the sort of seal required to sustain pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “treatment”. When you’re done 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 problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles also. So the entire process amounts to fraud.

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

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

What’s the danger in trying, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle near your ears. Look, it’s quite possible that you could try ear candling and leave completely unscathed. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax goes inside your ear, it can result in extreme hearing issues and burns. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most serious cases.
  • Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools down. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • You could cause serious damage when you play around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. It’s not worth the risk to try this useless technique of wax elimination.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In most situations you won’t even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you might be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

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

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at significant risk of injury and damage. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles

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