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

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the heads of otherwise logical people? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But even though the rational choice is quite clear, knowing more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have too much earwax and you aren’t 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 study, you discover a method called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: By inserting a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

This practice has several issues, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. You would need a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of creating that kind of pressure. Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would call for some kind of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, the candles that they use in these “treatments” are supposed to be special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found within the hollow portion 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 also. So the whole practice amounts to fraud.

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

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

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax near your ears, you’re asking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you may try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. Plenty of people do. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a chance that you might cause significant harm and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? It’s not worth the risk to attempt this useless technique of wax elimination.
  • Once the wax cools it can clog your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in extreme cases.
  • Your ear can be badly burned. Serious hearing problems and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most extreme cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

The majority of people will never truly need to worry about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! However, there are some people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

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

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at substantial risk of damage and injury. So maybe it’s time to put those special candles away.

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