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

There’s a persistent idea in some groups that a practice called “ear candling” is a good way to minimize your earwax. What is ear candling, and does it work?

Do Earwax Candles Work?

Spoiler alert: No. No, they don’t.

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the minds of otherwise logical human beings? It’s difficult to say with much precision. But the more you discover about earwax candling, particularly the risks involved, the more likely you can draw an informed decision (even if the rational decision is pretty obvious).

What is Earwax Candling?

So the basic setup goes like this: Maybe you have an excessive amount of earwax and you’re not really sure how to eliminate it. You’ve read that it’s dangerous to use cotton swabs to clean your earwax out. So you begin looking for an alternative and stumble on this approach called earwax candling.

Here’s how earwax candling purportedly works: You develop a pressure differential by inserting the candle into your ear, wick side out. This pressure difference then sucks the wax out. Theoretically, the pressure difference is enough to break up any wax that might be log-jamming in your ear. But this harmful practice is not a good way to clean your ears.

Why Doesn’t Ear Candling Work?

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

Now, there are supposedly special candles used in this “procedure”. When you’re finished with your fifteen minutes of ear candling, you can break up the candle and, in the hollow, see all bacteria, debris, and wax that was in your ear. The only problem is that the same debris shows up in both used and unused candles. So the whole process amounts to fraud.

Earwax candling hasn’t been proven by science to have any benefit whatsoever.

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

What’s the danger in giving it a shot, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle near your ears. Look, it’s very possible that you could try ear candling and walk away completely unharmed. People do it all of the time. But there are certainly risks involved and it’s certainly not safe.

Here are some negative effects of ear candling:

  • Candle wax can also block up your ear canal after it cools down. This can cause you to temporarily lose your hearing or, in the most severe cases, require surgery.
  • Severe burns to your inner ear. Extreme hearing problems and burns can be the result of getting hot wax inside of your ear. In the most serious cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.
  • You could cause serious damage when you play around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn down your house, would you? Getting rid of a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of risk and danger.

You Don’t Need a Candle to Clean Your Ears

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

If you do need to clean out your ears due to too much wax, there are scientifically-proven (and effective) methods to do that properly. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Another option would be to see 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 is a technique that has no benefit and will put your ears, and your entire person, at considerable risk of damage and injury. So perhaps it’s time to put those special candles away.