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

There’s a persistent idea in some groups that a practice known as “ear candling” is an effective way to reduce your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise rational people? That’s a hard question to answer. But even though the sensible decision is pretty obvious, knowing more about the dangers of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you aren’t sure how to eliminate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So, after doing some investigate, you find a technique known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling purportedly works: You develop a pressure differential by putting the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

This practice has several problems, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s just no way for a candle to produce that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure difference would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Also, a candle doesn’t have the kind of seal required to hold pressure.

Now, the candles used 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. The only problem is that the same detritus shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So the whole process amounts to fraud.

Scientific analysis has never been able 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, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re looking for trouble. Look, it’s quite possible that you might try ear candling and leave completely unscathed. People do it all of the time. But there are definitely hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • You could cause significant injury when you mess around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of danger and risk.
  • Significant burns inside ear. Extreme hearing issues and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax inside of your ear. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most extreme cases.
  • Once the wax cools down it can block your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in extreme cases.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Keep Your Ears Clean

In most situations you won’t even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good at cleaning themselves! Nevertheless, there are a few people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are techniques that have been proven to work safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Or you might see a professional who will be able to use specialized tools to clean the extra wax or wax blockages out of the way.

You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a method to clean your ears.

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