Hearing Services of Nashville

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

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

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

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

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you aren’t certain how to eradicate all your built up earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you start searching for an alternate and discover this approach called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You generate a pressure differential by shoving the candle into your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this dangerous practice is not a smart way to clean 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. You would need a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of creating that kind of pressure. Second, creating that type of pressure difference would require some type of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “procedures” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located in the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only problem is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “validation” is actually nonsense.

Earwax candling hasn’t been proven scientifically to have any benefit whatsoever.

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

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. You may be fine if you decide to try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Whenever you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a potential that you may cause serious damage and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal after it cools down. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most serious cases, require surgery.
  • Extreme burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax goes inside your ear, it can lead to serious hearing issues and burns. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most serious cases.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never truly need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. But you may be one of those individuals who have an abnormally heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of excessive wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) means to do that safely. You could try a fluid wash, for example. Another alternative would be to consult 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 benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. So maybe it’s time to put those special candles away.

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