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

In some communities, the practice known as “ear candling” is routinely thought to be an effective way to minimize earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Earwax Candles, do They Work?

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

Why then, does this piece of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise reasonable human beings? That’s a hard question to answer. But the more you know about earwax candling, including the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed decision (even if the rational choice is pretty obvious).

Earwax Candling, What is it?

So the basic setup goes like this: Perhaps you’re not certain how to eliminate all your built up earwax. You’ve read that it’s risky to use cotton swabs to clear your earwax out. So you begin searching for a substitute and discover this technique known as earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling theoretically works: You create a pressure differential by shoving the candle into your ear, wick side out. The wax in 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 cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

There are several issues with this process, including the fact that the physics simply don’t work. It would require a significant amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle just isn’t capable of creating that kind of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the sort of seal necessary to hold pressure.

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. 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 done with your 15 minutes of ear candling. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles also. So this “proof” is really nonsense.

Scientific analysis has been unable to prove any benefit regarding earwax candling.

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

So, you might as well give it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble anytime you get a hot candle near your ears. Look, it’s very possible that you may try ear candling and leave completely unscathed. People do it regularly. But that doesn’t imply there aren’t risks involved, and it certainly doesn’t mean that ear candling is safe.

Here are some negative effects of ear candling:

  • Whenever you’re mucking about with an open flame, there’s a potential that you could trigger significant injury and put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? Clearing away a bit of earwax isn’t worth that kind of risk and danger.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax gets into your ear, it can cause extreme hearing issues and burns. This could permanently damage your hearing in the most severe cases.
  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal once it cools. This can cause temporary hearing loss or, in the most serious cases, require surgery.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Keep Your Ears Clean

The majority of people will never actually need to worry about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That’s because your ears are actually pretty good at cleaning themselves! But you might be one of those individuals who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If you do need to clean your ears out because of too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and reliable) means to do that safely. For example, you could get a fluid wash. Or you might see a specialist who will be able to use specialized tools to get excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

You should continue to stay away from cotton swabs. And open flames are not ok either. Earwax candling is a technique 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.