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

There’s a lingering idea in some groups that a practice known as “ear candling” is a good way to decrease your earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do normally reasonable people persistently think in this pseudo-science. That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the logical decision is pretty clear).

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 a great way to clean out your ears, generally speaking). So, after doing some research, you find a method called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling purportedly works: By sticking a candle into 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. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that might be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has a few issues, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to produce that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would call for some type of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. When you’re done with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the hollow, 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 as well. So this “validation” is really nonsense.

Earwax candling has never been proven by science to have any benefit at all.

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

What’s the danger in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. Look, it’s quite possible that you may try ear candling and leave completely unscathed. People do it all of the time. But there are certainly hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Once the wax cools it can clog up your ear canal. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in serious cases.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can result in extreme hearing issues and burns. In the most serious cases, this could permanently compromise your hearing.
  • You could cause severe damage when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even 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 ineffective technique of wax removal.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of situations you won’t even need to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! But you may be one of those individuals who have an uncommonly heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean out your ears due to excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) means to do that properly. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Another alternative would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at significant risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a method to clean your ears.