Ear candling is an alternative medicine based on pseudoscientific principles that claims to remove earwax and toxins from the passages in one’s head. Ear candlers believe that the head contains pathways that are all interconnected, and that clearing the ear canal will leave your head “clean”. There are solid barriers in the head, like the eardrum, which makes this impossible. There is no clinical evidence that ear candling works, and different medical studies have shown that it is ineffective and dangerous.
Edzard Ernst, a retired academic physician said: “There is no data to suggest that it is effective for any condition. Furthermore, ear candles have been associated with ear injuries. The inescapable conclusion is that ear candles do more harm than good.”
What is ear candling supposed to do?
Ear candling is said to create a negative pressure vacuum that forces wax out of the ear canal. Researchers found that no negative air pressure is created during candling and that the negative pressure needed to pull wax would have to be so powerful that it would rupture the eardrum in the process.
Those who believe in ear candling say it can be used for a variety of purposes, including to:
- Relieve sinus pressure and pain
- Cleanse the ear canal
- Improve hearing
- Purify the mind
- Relieve pain and fever associated with a ruptured eardrum
- Relieve earaches
- Sharpen the senses of smell, taste, and color perception
Again, there is no evidence to support these claims.
What comes out of ear candles?
Investigators have performed tests to see what is actually coming out of the ear. They burned candles with:
- The tip inside the ear
- The tip outside the ear so the wax melts into a separate bowl
- The tip inside the ear with a tube in place that would allow ear wax to move into the tube blocking candle wax from interfering.
This experiment demonstrated that no earwax was removed from the ear, instead, all the residue came from the candle itself.
Does Ear Candling Work?
In general, the quick answer is no. And when it comes to helping with clogged ears, the answer is still no. The heat of a lit candle placed in the ear just doesn’t work. As mentioned earlier, the idea of ear candling forming a negative air pressure vacuum to clear the ears is simply untrue. Studies have shown that the supposed “impurities” collected during an ear candling session are nothing more than ashes from the burnt wick and candle.
Furthermore, the theory that the ear canal is connected to structures beyond the eardrum and into the brain isn’t true. A quick look at any anatomical drawing of the ear clearly shows the ear canal is not connected to the brain, the sinuses, or even the eustachian tubes. In situations like these, we think it’s important to listen to your gut. If a procedure sounds a little silly and you don’t trust it, you’re probably right. You can always contact an audiologist to get their professional opinion so you’re getting all the facts you need to make a decision you can be confident about.
Should You Try Ear Candling?
Again, no. In fact, while there is no clinical evidence that ear candling can help, there is plenty showing that ear candling will cause more harm than good. The most common dangers associated with ear candling are:
- Perforated eardrums
- Ear canal blockages that require surgery
In addition, ear candling is known to increase the risk of some injuries, like:
- Burns to the face, outer ear, eardrum, and inner ear
- Candle wax falling into the ear leading to inner ear damage
- Damage to the eardrum
- Hearing loss
- Ear canal blockages
- Eardrum perforations
- Secondary ear canal infections
- Hearing loss
We’ve established that ear candling doesn’t work, and that it can lead to a multitude of problems and injuries. And so we can say with confidence that ear candling is not worth the risk, especially since doing it may in fact cause or worsen the problem you’re trying to address in the first place!
If you’re experiencing ear pain, believe you have clogged ears, or have any questions or concerns about your hearing in general, see a professional. With an audiologist, you can do the necessary testing to discover what is going on and determine the best treatment plan for you. Seeing an audiologist is how you can take matters into your own hands to ensure you get the best solution possible.
What do experts say about ear candling?
Experts all over the world feel the same about ear candling; that it should be avoided at all costs. Since there is no medical evidence supporting the claims that it works in the first place, this comes as no surprise.
In the FDA’s import alert regarding candling, they said “The article appears to be dangerous to health when used in the dosage or manner, or with the frequency or duration, prescribed, recommended, or suggested in the labeling thereof.” In addition, the FDA hasn’t approved these candles for medical use, have sent warnings to manufacturers, and have even stopped their import entirely.
According to Healthy Hearing, “Ear candling is dangerous and causes injuries.” And in 2004, the Journal of Laryngology and Otology published a study titled “Ear Candles: a triumph of ignorance over science.” And countless sources have condemned their use, like healthline, WebMD, and the Mayo Clinic. All told, experts are all saying the same thing: Ear candling does not work and is dangerous.
What are safer methods to clean our ears?
The good news is that there are safe methods of cleaning your ears that don’t involve the risk of burns! We should note that for the most part, your body naturally gets rids of excess wax through chewing and other jaw motions, so cleaning your ears isn’t really necessary. However, there are times when wax can build up in your ears impacting your hearing, called an impaction.
Ear Wax Removal by a professional is the safest and most effective way to clean your ears. Making an appointment with an audiologist is best, as they have all the tools and knowledge necessary to safely and effectively clean your ears. This may include a technique called Ear Irrigation. The doctor will start by using a solution to soften the ear wax, and then use a syringe-like tool to insert a water and saline mixture to flush out the wax. Audiologists may use a combination of instruments like curettes, spoon-shaped tools, alligator forceps, or small grasping tools to help remove the blockages. Gentle microsuction, like an ear vacuum, may also be used in combination with softening drops.
But, there are a few things you can try on your own too.
Hydrogen Peroxide, when used correctly, can dissolve ear wax and clear your ears. Audiologists recommend mixing warm water and hydrogen peroxide and placing a drop or two into your ear with a dropper. The wax should dissolve in a few seconds, though you can repeat the process a few times a day if needed. This can also be done with baby oil, mineral oil, saline, or glycerin.
Ear drops, like Debrox, have also been shown to be successful. While the ear drops work to soften the ear wax, the ear wax extraction should still be done by an audiologist for increased safety and better results.
A damp cloth can do wonders for cleaning your ears, and it’s safe. After getting out of the shower, use a warm damp cloth to gently wipe the outside of the ear.
How Can I Remove Wax Safely?
The safest way to remove excess wax is to see an audiologist for an ear cleaning. However, there are different methods you can try at home. As always, being careful and following instructions diligently is crucial – the last thing you want to do is to worsen your wax buildup!
The easiest way to clean your ears is by using a damp cloth. After getting out of the shower, use a warm damp cloth to gently wipe the outside of the ear. This process is easy, non-invasive, and can be done with items you already have at home!
EAR WAX SOFTENERS
Another way to remove excess earwax is to use different solutions to help soften the ear wax. There are many solutions, like hydrogen peroxide, baby oil, mineral oil, saline, or glycerin that are safe to use. Audiologists recommend mixing the solution with warm water and placing a drop into your ear with a dropper. The wax should dissolve within a few seconds, clearing excess wax. Sometimes this needs to be done several times to get results, but it is safe to repeat the process a few times a day if needed.
Ear drops are similar to natural ear wax softeners like saline solution. Ear drops, like Debrox, have been successful in cleaning excess ear wax safely. While these drops are sold over the counter, audiologists still encourage patients to have a professional perform the extraction once the wax has softened.