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

There’s a lingering idea in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to minimize your earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

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

Why then do otherwise rational people persistently accept in this pseudo-science. That’s a hard question to answer. But although the logical decision is fairly clear, knowing more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an educated choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

So here’s the basic setup: Perhaps you have too much earwax and you’re not quite sure how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So, after doing some study, you discover a technique called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You create a pressure differential by cramming the candle into your ear, wick side out. This pressure differential then pulls the wax out. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are several issues with this practice, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. You would need a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of generating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the type of seal needed to sustain pressure.

Now, the candles that they use in these “procedures” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be located within the hollow portion of the candle which can be broken up when you’re finished with your 15 minutes of ear candling. The only issue is that the same detritus shows up in both burned and unburned candles. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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

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

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, any time you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You might be ok if you decide to try earwax candling. People do it regularly. But there are definitely risks involved and it’s definitely not safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Whenever you’re messing around with an open flame, there’s a chance that you might trigger significant damage and put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn down your house. It’s not worth the risk to attempt this ineffective technique of wax removal.
  • Once the wax cools it can clog your ear canal. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in extreme cases.
  • Severe burns inside ear. Severe hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax in your ear. This could permanently jeopardize your hearing in the most serious cases.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

The majority of people will never actually need to worry about cleaning earwax from their ears. That’s because the human ear is essentially a self cleaning system. Nevertheless, there are certain people who will have uncommonly heavy earwax production or accumulation to contend with.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another solution would be to see a hearing care professional for an earwax cleaning.

You should continue to avoid cotton swabs. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a procedure that has no benefit 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 never as a means to clean your ears.