Man holding his ear thinking of ear ringing myths

Why You Shouldn’t Use Ear Candles

Published: September 14, 2023

It is only natural to want to remove unsightly ear wax but it is important to remember that ear wax is also natural, and is vital for healthy hearing. One such removal method is called ear candles, also known as ear candling, and while it may seem like a great way to remove ear wax, it could be more harmful than helpful.

What are ear candles?

Ear candles are hollow cones that are made from fabric, and coated with various types of wax (paraffin, beeswax, or soy). Shaped similar to a normal candle – with one pointed end and a wider end on the other side – the ear candle is then inserted by the pointed end, into your ear. The wider side is then lit. 

Right from the get go, we would like to point out that you should never attempt to do this by yourself, as it could lead to serious injury.

How do ear candles work?

To begin, you would lie on your side with one ear pointed up towards the ceiling. This is the ear that the candle would be inserted into. The supposed way that these are meant to work is that the heat is believed to cause a vacuum inside the cone, thereby sucking (or pulling) the ear wax out of your ear. 

The same person assisting you (should you try it) would create a seal around the ear to create a vacuum seal in order for a vacuum to form. Ideally, the wax and other debris are sucked into the hollow candle. 

The candle is then left to burn for roughly 10 – 15 minutes, trimming the burned fabric to prevent any contamination inside the tube. Once the candle is burned to the last 3 or 4 inches, it is safely removed from the ear and then extinguished. Blowing the candle out while it is still in the ear can cause ash to burn parts of the ear and face.

Woman holding her congested ear considering these tips on how to safely clean your ears

When would you use an ear candle?

Ear candles are typically marketed as an alternative method to remove ear wax. However, there are other supposed uses for ear candles:

  • Earwax buildup
  • Ear aches
  • Swimmer’s ear or ear infections
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Hearing problems
  • Sinus infections or other sinus conditions
  • Symptoms of a cold or the flu
  • Sore throat
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Stress and tension

We strongly recommend that you visit a hearing healthcare provider if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms rather than use remedies, such as ear candles. These symptoms could be indicative of a far more serious condition that may be worsened by using something such as an ear candle.

Do they work?

The short answer is no – there is no evidence that definitively proves that ear candles remove wax from your ear. In fact, some have even been shown to increase the amount of wax in your ear, due to the deposits from the candle itself. 

Injury risk

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a warning against the use of ear candles due to the risk of causing serious injuries, despite these products offering safety instructions. In addition, the FDA has also noted that there is no evidence as to the effectiveness, or benefits, of ear candles, but they have received a host of complaints that contain negative experiences.

Below are examples of some of the negative consequences that people have suffered from ear candles:

  • Burns
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Ear canal blockages that required surgery

Other potential injuries include:

  • Burns to the face, outer ear, eardrum, and inner ear
  • Burns resulting from starting a fire
  • Candle wax falling into the ear and causing a plug or inner ear damage
  • Damage to the eardrum
  • Hearing loss

Alternatives to Ear Candles

If you are suffering from a build-up of wax, it is always best practice to consult with a healthcare professional. They will be able to assist you with a safe and effective flush of your ears to remove any excess wax. You could also try:

  • Earwax softening drops, which you can buy at a local pharmacy.
  • Flush your ear with warm water using a bulb-type syringe. You can purchase the syringe at a local pharmacy.

These should still be performed under the guidance of a licensed medical professional to prevent any serious damage.

In Summary

Ear candles, also known as ear candling, are not a recommended practice for clearing excess wax from your ears. There has been no evidence to prove any beneficial effects of ear candles, and they could lead to serious injury if performed incorrectly. In fact, they could even cause more wax to build up in your ear. 

Always consult a licensed healthcare professional if you feel you are suffering from an excess buildup of wax in your ears.

Image of post writer Robert de Wit.

Written by Robert de Wit

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