You’ve Heard of Ear Candling But What is it?

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

In some circles, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be a good way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then do otherwise rational people persistently believe in this pseudo-science. That’s a difficult question to answer. But although the logical choice is fairly clear, understanding more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Maybe you’re not sure how to get rid of all your accumulated earwax. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clean out your ears, generally speaking). So you begin searching for a substitute and discover this approach called earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You create a pressure differential by cramming the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up any wax that might be log-jamming in your ear. But this harmful technique is not a smart means of cleaning your ears.

Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a number of problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of generating that amount of pressure. Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would call for some kind of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, there are supposed to be 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 material in new unburned candles also. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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

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

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle around your ears. Look, it’s very possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unharmed. Plenty 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 a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Significant burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can lead to serious hearing issues and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.
  • Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
  • You could cause serious injury when you mess around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of danger and risk.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never truly have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you might be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

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

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. So perhaps it’s time to put away those special candles