Hearing Health Blog

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

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

Do Earwax Candles 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 rational human beings? That’s a tough question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed choice (even if the sensible choice is pretty clear).

What is Earwax Candling?

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

Here’s how earwax candling purportedly works: You produce a pressure differential by putting the candle into your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be clogging up your ear. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has a few issues, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to generate that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be quite substantial indeed). Second, generating that kind of pressure difference would require some type of seal, which doesn’t occur during candling.

Now, the candles used in these “treatments” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found within the hollow portion of the candle which can be broken up when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles also. So the entire practice amounts to fraud.

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

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

What’s the danger in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. You may be fine if you decide to try earwax candling. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.

Here are a few negative effects of ear candling:

  • Severe burns to your inner ear. Extreme hearing problems and burns can be the outcome of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most serious cases, this might permanently compromise your hearing.
  • You could cause serious harm when you mess 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 attempt this useless technique of wax removal.
  • Once the wax cools down it can block up your ear canal. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most extreme cases, call for surgery.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

In the majority of circumstances you won’t even need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is basically a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are some people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If you do need to clean out your ears due to too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) methods to do that safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Or you could see a professional 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 open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling doesn’t work, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in significant danger. So maybe it’s time to put away those special candles

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