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

In some circles, the practice called “ear candling” is routinely thought to be an effective way to decrease earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

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

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise rational people? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But even though the sensible choice is pretty obvious, understanding more about the dangers of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you’re not certain how to eradicate 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 clear out your ears, in general). So, after doing some investigate, you discover a method known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: By jamming a candle into your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that may 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

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 produce that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal necessary to hold pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “treatment”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found in the hollow part of the candle which can be broken up when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. So the whole procedure amounts to fraud.

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

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

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, you’re looking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle around your ears. You may be fine if you decide to try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Whenever you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a chance that you could cause significant damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of risk and danger.
  • Your ear can be severely burned. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can lead to severe hearing issues and burns. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most severe cases.
  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools down. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in extreme cases.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never actually have to be concerned about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you may be one of those people who have an uncommonly heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) ways to do that safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles

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