In some circles, the practice called “ear candling” is persistently thought to be a good way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?
Is Ear Candling Effective?
Spoiler alert: No. They absolutely don’t work.
Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the heads of otherwise rational people? That’s a tough question to answer. But the more you discover about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can develop an informed choice (even if the logical choice is pretty clear).
What is Earwax Candling?
So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you’re not certain how to eliminate all your accumulated earwax. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clear out your ears, in most cases). So, after doing some investigate, you find a method known as earwax candling.
Here’s how earwax candling supposedly works: You produce a pressure differential by putting the candle in your ear, wick side out. This pressure differential then sucks the wax out. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.
Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work
There are a few problems with this practice, including the fact that the physics just don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to generate that type of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would have to be pretty substantial indeed). Second, creating that kind of pressure differential would require some sort of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.
Now, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposed to be special. 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 the entire practice amounts to fraud.
Scientific research has never been able to prove any benefit associated with earwax candling.
So we Know Ear Candling Doesn’t Work But is it Dangerous?
So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, you’re looking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. You may be fine if you try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t hazards involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.
The negative impacts of ear candling can include:
- You might cause severe damage when you play around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? It’s not worth the risk to try this ineffective technique of wax elimination.
- Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools down. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.
- Your ear can be badly burned. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can lead to serious hearing issues and burns. In the most serious cases, this might permanently damage your hearing.
You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle
In most circumstances you won’t even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you could be one of those people who have an unusually heavy earwax production.
If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another solution would be to see a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.
You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your entire person, at substantial risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.