Hearing Health Blog

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

There’s a persistent idea in some groups that a practice known as “ear candling” is an effective way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

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

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable human beings? That’s a tough question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, especially the risks involved, the more likely you can make an informed choice (even if the sensible choice is pretty clear).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you’re not certain how to eradicate all your accumulated earwax. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start searching for an alternate and stumble on this technique called earwax candling.

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

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

There are several issues with this process, 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, generating that type of pressure differential would require some kind of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.

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

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

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

What’s the danger in trying, right? Well, you’re looking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. Look, it’s quite possible that you may try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. People do it regularly. But there are certainly hazards involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are some negative impacts of ear candling:

  • Significant burns to your inner ear. Extreme hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. In the most extreme 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. Seriously, you could burn your house down. It’s not worth the danger to try this useless technique of wax elimination.
  • Once the wax cools it can block up your ear canal. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most extreme cases, require surgery.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In most circumstances you will never even need to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. However, there are certain people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or accumulation to deal with.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are practices 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.

Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And open flames are not good either. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no advantage and will put your ears, and your entire 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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