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

There’s a persistent belief in some circles that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to reduce your earwax. Does ear candling work and what is it?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise logical people? That’s a tough question to answer. But although the sensible choice is quite 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 have too much earwax and you aren’t really sure how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start looking for an alternative and come across this approach known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You create a pressure differential by shoving the candle in your ear, wick side out. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this dangerous technique is not a good method of cleaning your ears.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

There are several issues with this process, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. You would need a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of creating that amount of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t have the type of seal needed to maintain pressure.

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 had previously been in your ear. The only issue is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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

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

So, you may as well give it a try, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re looking for trouble. Look, it’s very possible that you might try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in serious cases.
  • Your ear can be severely burned. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can cause extreme hearing issues and burns. In the most serious cases, this might permanently compromise your hearing.
  • You might cause severe harm when you mess around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. It’s not worth the danger to attempt this useless technique of wax elimination.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

In most situations you will never even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about 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) means to do that safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Another option would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at substantial risk of injury and damage. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.

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