In some groups, the practice called “ear candling” is persistently believed to be a good way to decrease earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?
Earwax Candles, do They Work?
Spoiler alert: No. They definitely don’t work.
Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise reasonable human beings? That’s a tough question to answer. But even though the sensible decision is fairly obvious, 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’re not sure how to remove all your accumulated earwax. You know you aren’t supposed to use cotton swabs (which is good, cotton swabs are not a great way to clear out your ears, generally speaking). So you begin looking for an alternate and discover this method known as earwax candling.
Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: You produce a pressure differential by cramming the candle in your ear, wick side out. The wax inside of your ear, then, is pulled outward, towards the freedom of the open world. Any wax that may be backed up in your ear can, in theory, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this harmful practice is not a smart way to clean your ears.
Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective
This practice has several issues, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. There’s simply no way for a candle to create that kind of pressure differential (and in order to move earwax around, that pressure differential would need to be quite substantial indeed). Second, creating that kind of pressure differential would call for some type of seal, which doesn’t happen during candling.
Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “treatment”. When you’re finished 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. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles too. So this “validation” is really nonsense.
Earwax candling hasn’t been proven scientifically to have any benefit whatsoever.
So Earwax Candling Doesn’t Work, But How Safe is it?
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. Look, it’s quite possible that you could try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. Lots of people do. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t risks involved, and it certainly doesn’t imply that ear candling is safe.
The negative effects of ear candling can include:
- Significant burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can cause serious hearing issues and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most extreme cases.
- Candle wax can also clog up your ear canal once it cools down. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.
- You could cause significant injury when you play 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 ineffective technique of wax elimination.
You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle
In the majority of circumstances you won’t even need to be concerned about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! However, there are a few people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or accumulation to deal with.
If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Or you could see a specialist who will be capable of using specialized tools to get extra wax or wax blockages out.
Cotton swabs are definitely not the way to go. And you should also avoid using an open flame to clear out earwax. Earwax candling is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.