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Ear Wax Candles: Do they really work?

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Ear candles have been used for years in an attempt to remove wax from the ear canal, but, do they actually work? The short answer is a definite no. In fact, most medical experts agree that this archaic way of removing earwax is unsafe and ineffective, often doing more harm than good.

Read on to find out why they're still widely used and exactly how safe they are. 

What is ear candling?

The use of earwax candles comes under a whole range of other supposed remedies classed as ‘alternative medicine’. Candling is said to clear not only the ear, but the head and even the circulatory system.

There are quite a few types available, including Hopi ear candles, ear cones and basic ear candles which, as they are made only from cotton flax or hemp and beeswax, are also known as natural ear candles. 

Whatever the type, the method of use is generally the same. The subject lies on their side and one end of the candle is placed in their ear. The candle is then lit and allowed to burn down until it’s a few inches from the face, when it’s extinguished. 
It is claimed (falsely) that the flame creates negative pressure within the candle which sucks out softened earwax.

Why do people use ear candles?

As well as supposedly removing ear wax, advocates of ear candling are of the opinion that it also has a range of other holistic benefits.

Many of these seem almost too good to be true, including the treatment of bacterial infections, cold and flu symptoms, migraines and sore throats.

Why ear candling doesn't work

Let’s start with the claim that ear candles can actually ‘suck out’ excess earwax. Given that most candle flames do not produce enough negative pressure to pull any kind of liquid from the ear, there is no scientific basis whatsoever for this claim. 

Then there’s the fact that the temperature reached by Hopi ear candles, or any other type, is insufficient to even soften earwax. There have even been cases where researchers have found more earwax after an ear candling session.      
You’ll find that many practitioners will cut open the candle at the end of a session and show what has been removed. They claim that this dark brown or black substance is a blend of earwax debris, impurities, bacteria and toxins. It is, in fact, mainly nothing more than burnt paraffin and fabric. Even when an earwax candle is left to burn away from the ear, exactly the same dark residue is produced.

Is ear candling safe?

Again, the short answer to the question above is a definite no.

Ears are a sensitive and incredibly delicate organ. As such, they should never come anywhere near the open flame of an earwax candle. And serious injuries from ear candling are not uncommon. 
Far more common are burns to the face, scalp and neck from fallen hot wax. Hot drops can also make their way into the ear itself, with the potential to damage the ear canal and perforate membranes, lead to infections, bleeding and even a loss of hearing.         
A survey of 122 otolaryngologists identified 21 injuries resulting from the use of ear candles, comprising 13 burns of the external parts of the ear and seven partial or complete blockages of the ear canal with candle wax. There’s also the danger that minute ash and powder deposits may settle in the ear, the removal of which will require professional help.

How can I remove ear wax safely?

Here’s yet another short answer: let it fall out naturally on its own. Your ears are self-cleaning, so there shouldn't be any need to remove your earwax. However, if a buildup of earwax is giving you earache or making it difficult for you to hear, we’d strongly recommend you make an appointment with a hearingcare expert

There are several ways to clean your ears and remove your earwax safely at home.
All the evidence points to the fact that ear candling is a waste of both time and money, and may even prove to be detrimental to your ear health.

Many people still turn to ear candling when they should be consulting their GP or an audiologist about an underlying ear condition. If that’s you, now’s perhaps the time for a thorough hearing assessment.

man having his ear wax removed