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

There’s a lingering belief in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is an effective way to decrease your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do normally rational people persistently believe in this pseudo-science. It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But although the sensible decision is pretty obvious, understanding more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you have an excessive amount of earwax and you aren’t quite certain how to eliminate it. You know you’re not supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not an ideal way to clear out your ears, in general). So, after doing some investigate, you find a technique known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling allegedly works: By sticking a candle in your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. The wax in your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. In theory, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be clogging up your ear. But this dangerous practice is not a good way to clean your ears.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

This practice has a few problems, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of producing that amount of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal needed to sustain pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “treatment”. When you’re done with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the middle, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that had previously been in your ear. The only issue is that the same debris shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So the whole procedure amounts to fraud.

Scientific analysis has been unable to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

So Earwax Candling Doesn’t Work, But is it Safe?

So, you might as well give it a shot, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re asking for trouble. You may be ok if you decide to try earwax candling. People do it all of the time. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s definitely not safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Once the wax cools it can block your ear canal. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most severe cases, call for surgery.
  • You could cause serious harm when you mess around with an open flame and potentially 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 removal.
  • Significant burns inside ear. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can cause severe hearing problems and burns. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most severe cases.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never truly have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! 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) methods to do that safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Or you could see a professional who will be capable of using specialized tools to get excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your whole person, at significant risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a method to clean your ears.

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