McDonald Hearing Services - Grand Rapids, MI

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

In some circles, the practice called “ear candling” is persistently believed to be an effective way to reduce earwax. Is ear candling effective and what is it?

Earwax Candles, is it Effective?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then do otherwise logical people persistently believe in this pseudo-science. It’s difficult to say with much precision. But even though the sensible choice is pretty clear, knowing more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you’re not sure how to eliminate all your built up earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you start searching for a substitute and come across this technique called earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By inserting a candle into your ear (wick side out), you cause a pressure differential. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Any wax that might be backed up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But this hazardous technique is not a smart method of cleaning your ears.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

There are a few problems with this practice, like the fact that the physics just don’t work. You would need a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of generating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t have the type of seal needed to maintain pressure.

Now, there are supposed to be special candles used in this “procedure”. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found in the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same material in new unburned candles as well. So this “proof” is actually nonsense.

Scientific analysis has never been able to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

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

What’s the harm in giving it a shot, right? Well, whenever you get hot candle wax around your ears, you’re looking for trouble. You may be fine if you try earwax candling. Plenty of people do. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t risks involved, and it certainly doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • Extreme burns to your inner ear. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can result in serious hearing issues and burns. This could permanently compromise your hearing in the most extreme cases.
  • You might cause severe harm when you play around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. Seriously, you could burn your house down. It’s not worth the risk to attempt this useless technique of wax removal.
  • Candle wax can also clog your ear canal after it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most serious cases, require surgery.

You Can Keep Your Ears Clean Without Needing a Candle

Most people will never actually have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! However, there are a few people who will have unusually heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

If it turns out that you have too much earwax there are methods that have been proven to work safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to consult a hearing care specialist for an earwax cleaning.

Cotton swabs are definitely a no-no. 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 considerable danger. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a method to clean your ears.