There’s a lingering idea in some circles that a practice called “ear candling” is an effective way to reduce your earwax. Does ear candling work and what is it?
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 reasonable human beings? That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you discover about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed decision (even if the rational decision is pretty obvious).
Earwax Candling, What is it?
So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have an excessive amount of earwax and you’re not quite certain how to get rid of it. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clean out your ears, in most cases). So you start searching for an alternate and come across this technique known as earwax candling.
Here’s how earwax candling theoretically works: You produce a pressure differential by shoving 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. In theory, the pressure difference is enough to break up any wax that may be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.
Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective
There are a number of issues with this process, including the fact that the physics simply 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 need to be pretty substantial indeed). Second, creating that type of pressure differential would require some type of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.
Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located within the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles also. So this “validation” is actually nonsense.
Scientific analysis has been unable to prove any benefit associated with earwax candling.
So we Know Ear Candling Doesn’t Work But is it Dangerous?
What’s the danger in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. You may be ok 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 impacts of ear candling can include:
- Your ear can be severely burned. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can result in extreme hearing problems and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most serious cases.
- Candle wax can also block up your ear canal after it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.
- You could cause significant damage when you play around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of risk and danger.
You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle
Most people will never actually have to worry about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good about cleaning themselves! Nevertheless, there are some people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.
If it turns out that you have excessive earwax there are techniques that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Another option would be to consult a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.
You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And you should also stay away from using an open flame to clean out earwax. Earwax candling isn’t effective, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable jeopardy. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a means to clean your ears.