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

In some communities, the practice known as “ear candling” is persistently thought to be an effective way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable human beings? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But the more you know about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the rational decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you’re not certain how to eliminate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you begin looking for a substitute and stumble on this technique known as earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By inserting a candle in your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Any wax that may be clogged up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a number of problems with this practice, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. You would need a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of creating that amount of pressure. Second, creating that kind of pressure differential would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposed to be special. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break apart the candle and, in the middle, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that had previously been in your ear. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles as well. So the entire procedure amounts to fraud.

Scientific analysis has never been able to prove any benefit involving earwax candling.

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

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

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in severe cases.
  • Any time you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a chance that you might cause serious damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn down your house. It’s not worth the risk to attempt this ineffective technique of wax elimination.
  • Severe burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can lead to extreme hearing problems and burns. In the most severe cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.

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

In the majority of circumstances you won’t even have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. But you could be one of those individuals who have an abnormally heavy earwax production.

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 could see a specialist who will be able to use specialized tools to clean the excess wax or wax blockages out.

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 doesn’t work, and it can create dangers that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable peril. So maybe it’s time to put away those special candles

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