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

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

Do Earwax Candles Work?

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

Why then, does this bit of pseudo-science keep burrowing its way into the heads of otherwise rational people? It’s hard to say with much accuracy. But although the rational choice is pretty obvious, understanding more about the dangers 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 certain 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, after doing some study, you find a technique called earwax candling.

Earwax candling supposedly works as follows: By sticking a candle in your ear (wick side out), you create a pressure differential. This pressure difference then pulls the wax out. Theoretically, the pressure differential is enough to break up that might be log-jamming in your ear. But cleaning your ears like this can be dangerous.

Why Isn’t Ear Candling Effective

This practice has several problems, like the fact that the physics simply don’t work. It would require a considerable amount of pressure to move earwax around and a candle is not capable of producing that amount of pressure. Also, a candle doesn’t possess the kind of seal necessary to hold pressure.

Now, the candles that they use in these “treatments” are supposedly special. 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. But the issue is you can find this same detritus in new unburned candles as well. 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?

What’s the harm in trying, right? Well, you’re asking for trouble whenever you get a hot candle around your ears. You might be fine if you decide to 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:

  • Once the wax cools it can block your ear canal. You could end up temporarily losing your hearing or even requiring surgery in severe cases.
  • You might cause severe damage when you play around with an open flame and potentially even put your life in danger. You wouldn’t want to burn your house down, would you? Eliminating a bit of earwax isn’t worth that amount of risk and danger.
  • Your ear can be seriously burned. When melted candle wax gets inside your ear, it can cause serious hearing problems and burns. In the most serious cases, this could permanently jeopardize your hearing.

You Don’t Require a Candle to Clean Your Ears

In the majority of circumstances you won’t even have to worry about cleaning earwax out. That’s because your ears are really pretty good about cleaning themselves! But you could be one of those people who have an unusually heavy earwax production.

If it happens that you have too much earwax there are practices that have been proven to work safely. You could use a fluid wash, for example. Or you might see a professional who will be able to use specialized tools to clean the excess wax or wax blockages out of the way.

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 peril. Try burning candles for their sent or for enjoyment but not as a means to clean your ears.