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

There’s a persistent belief in some circles that a practice called “ear candling” is an effective way to decrease your earwax. What is ear candling, and is it effective?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep finding its way into the minds of otherwise reasonable human beings? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But even though the logical decision is fairly obvious, learning more about the risks of earwax candling will help us make an informed choice.

What is Earwax Candling?

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 looking for an alternative and stumble on this method called earwax candling.

Earwax candling is supposed to work as follows: You develop a pressure differential by shoving the candle in your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then sucks the wax out. Any wax that might be clogged up in your ear can, theoretically, be pulled out by this amount of pressure. But cleaning your ears this way can be dangerous.

The Reason Why Ear Candling Doesn’t Work

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

Now, the candles that they use in these “procedures” are supposedly special. All of the wax that was in your ear can be found inside the hollow part of the candle which can be broken apart when you’re done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the problem is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles also. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

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?

So, you may as well give it a shot, right? Well, you’re looking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle around your ears. You might be ok if you try earwax candling. Plenty of people do. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s definitely not safe.

The negative impacts of ear candling can include:

  • You could cause significant damage when you mess around with an open flame and possibly even put your life in danger. Seriously, you may burn your house down. It’s not worth the risk to attempt this useless technique of wax elimination.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax goes into your ear, it can result in serious hearing problems and burns. In the most severe cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.
  • Once the wax cools down it can clog your ear canal. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.

You Can Clean Your Ears Without Needing a Candle

In most situations you won’t even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good about cleaning themselves! However, there are some people who will have abnormally heavy earwax production or buildup to deal with.

If it happens that you have excessive earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. For example, you could use a fluid wash. Another solution 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 isn’t effective, and it can create risks that will put your comfort and your hearing in considerable jeopardy. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but never as a means to clean your ears.