Are Ear Candles Safe to Use?

Ear candles are often advertised as a home remedy for clogged ears and earaches. But do they actually work, and how safe are they?

Chances are if you've ever suffered from an earwax buildup, you know how painful and annoying it can be. Many people turn to home remedies like ear drops, q-tips, and ear wax candling to get rid of these blockages, but some of these remedies aren't the best choice of treatment. Ear candles, in particular, are commonly advertised as the cure-all solution for ear wax buildup, but are they effective - or even safe - as many people are led to believe?

What Are Ear Candles?

Ear candles are exactly what they sound like: candles that go into your ear. They're usually around a foot long, and the end is placed inside the ear canal while the other side is lit. As the candle burns, it's supposed to draw out earwax from within your ear. Many ear wax candling practitioners claim that ear candles can cure earaches, blockages, tinnitus, and even illnesses like the flu.

Ear candles are often advertised as cure-alls for various problems, and it's said that the suction created by the candle will draw earwax out of the ear. In fact, many practitioners will cut open the candle afterward, revealing some crumbly debris that they claim is earwax and debris. Practitioners claim that the ear is an open passage, and ear candles can "clear out" these passages and leave you with cleaner ears.

Ear candles are simple in concept, which makes these claims more outrageous. When you get your ears candled, you're instructed to lay on your side as the candle is placed in your ear. A plate is usually placed over your ears and face to prevent burns from the hot wax. From there, the practitioner will light the candle and let it burn for around 15 minutes. During this time, the candle is supposed to be drawing impurities from your ear. Then, the process is repeated on the other ear.

The question is: does this practice actually work?

The answer is no. Extensive studies have been done on the effectiveness of ear candling, and it has been concretely determined that there is no worth to this practice. No suction is created during the candle burning, and there is no point in candling your ears. In fact, ear candling carries serious risks.

The Truth About Ear Candling

At best, ear candling is ineffective and pointless. At worst, it can leave you with hearing loss. Here are the facts about your ears, and why ear candling is always a bad idea.

"Ear candles suck out the earwax."

Earwax is sticky and thick. It clings to the inside of your ears and slowly dries out as it's worked towards the entrance of the ear canal. Over time, the movements of your jaw will work out the earwax. From there, it can be wiped off with a wet rag. Ear candles don't produce any suction, making this claim false. Even if they did, it would take a large amount of suction power to remove earwax straight from your ears, and this amount of power could rupture your eardrum.

"Ear candles melt the earwax."

Even if the candle burned at a temperature high enough to melt earwax, this amount of heat would be dangerous. You should never put open flames or heat sources inside your ear canal. Melting the earwax has no purpose, as it would just flow farther back into your ears and congeal into a mass. Regardless, candles don't melt earwax; the only wax melting is from the candle.

"Ear candles clear out my ear passages."

Your eardrums block your middle and inner ear from the outer world. There is no way that ear candles can leech debris and liquid from these areas because they're sealed away inside your head. If these areas are breached, you run the risk of infection and hearing loss. Ear candles pose no purpose, and this is a completely false claim.

The Risks of Ear Candling

When you candle the ear, you're putting yourself at risk of:

  • Pushing earwax farther into the ear canal. Ear candles do not produce any suction and putting foreign objects like candlesticks into the ear can just shove the earwax down and cause it to compact.
  • Burning yourself. Depending on the temperature, hot wax can come in contact with the hands and other areas of the body without issue. However, the face and ears are extremely sensitive. When hot wax from the candle falls on your face and scalp, it can leave you with painful burns. The plates and protective coverings aren't always enough, and wax can still drip down the candle into your ear canal.
  • Adding wax to the blockage. As the candle burns, it can leave wax inside your ear canal. If you're already suffering from earwax blockage, this is just exacerbating the problem. Some people actually experience worsening earaches after getting their ears candled.
  • Puncturing your eardrum. If the candle is pushed in too far or hot wax drips into the ear, it can cause damage to your eardrum and leave you with serious hearing problems. Chances are if a home remedy involves putting foreign objects like candles in your ear, it's a bad idea. You should never stick anything into your ear canal, even if a candling practitioner tells you it's safe.

How to Get Rid of Earwax Buildup

If you're suffering from an earwax buildup, ear candles might seem like a cheap, easy solution. However, they can just leave you with more problems than you started with. It's better to skip the home remedies and go straight to a professional. ENT doctors are trained to remove earwax blockages in a safe, comfortable manner, and this is far safer than buying ear candles or letting a spa worker mess with your ears.

It's important to remember that you only have one set of ears. If they're damaged, this damage is permanent. Sticking foreign objects like candles, q-tips, and tweezers inside your ears to dislodge blockages is not only ineffective, it's dangerous. Don't run the risk of hearing loss; go to a professional and get your blockage taken care of.

If you're interested in more articles on ear health, hearing loss, and hearing health, Signia Hearing can give you the resources you need to learn more. We have an archive full of information, and we put out more articles every week.

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