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Hearing Aids by Tricia Leagjeld - Redmond, OR

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

There’s a persistent idea in some circles that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to reduce your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Is Ear Candling Effective?

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

Why then do normally rational people persistently think in this pseudo-science. It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you know about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you aren’t sure how to eliminate all your built up earwax. 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, generally speaking). So you begin searching for a substitute and come across this method called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You create a pressure differential by cramming the candle in your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

This practice has a few problems, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of producing that amount of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t have the sort of seal required to maintain 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 finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the problem is you can find this same material in new unburned candles as well. So the entire practice amounts to fraud.

Earwax candling hasn’t been proven scientifically to have any benefit whatsoever.

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

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You might be ok if you try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
  • Any time you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a chance that you could trigger significant damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Severe burns inside ear. Extreme hearing issues and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax in your ear. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never actually need to worry about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. However, there are a few people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) methods to do that safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Or you could see a specialist who will be capable of using specialized tools to get excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles