How Do Ear Candles Work & Are They Safe?

Uncovering another case of improper ear wax removal.
Last update on Jun, 19, 2024

Have you ever heard of ear candling as a method for removing ear wax buildup? While it might sound like a simple or "natural" solution, attempting to insert a hot, lit candle into your ear canal poses serious risks to your health.

This article will debunk common myths about ear candling, explore why it's unsafe, and reveal which remedies are more effective for ear wax removal.

What Is Ear Candling?

Ear candling, or ear coning, involves placing a hollow candle in the ear canal and lighting the other end. The technique is commonly used in spas and alternative medicine practices for people struggling with ear wax buildup.

Advocates of ear candling (including the manufacturers of these products) claim that the heat creates a vacuum, drawing out ear wax and impurities from the ear canal. However, it's important to note that there is no scientific evidence to support such claims.

Although an earwax candle is designed to be inserted in your ear canal, you should avoid practicing this technique and encourage friends and loved ones to do the same.

Do Earwax Candles Work?

There is no clinical evidence to support the effectiveness of ear candling. However, there is research to demonstrate its potential harm.

For example, a 16-year-old boy who practiced ear candling for allergies reported experiencing pain in his ear and reduced hearing. His physician had to remove multiple pieces of candle debris from his eardrum.

In an older study, a 50-year-old woman spilled candle wax into her right ear canal after 15 minutes of ear candling, resulting in damage to her hearing even after the candle wax was removed by an ENT (Ear, Nose, and Throat) specialist.  

Are Ear Candles Safe?

If using Q-Tips® in your ears is unsafe, then inserting a hot, burning candle into your ear canal should be avoided entirely.

There is a high risk of injury from the hot wax dripping into the ear canal, as well as burns to the face, hair, and scalp. The procedure also poses a risk of puncturing the eardrum or pushing ear wax further into the ear canal, leading to impaction.

Engaging in ear candling can also lead to serious complications, including:

  • Ear canal obstruction and burns to the area
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Facial burns around the ear
  • Residual candle wax in and around the ear

These issues can result in hearing loss, increased risk of infections, and persistent discomfort. 

Ear Drops

Baking Soda & Water

Oil

Expert Removal

Ear Drops

OTC Ear Drops

Over-the-counter (OTC) ear drops are often used to help soften and dislodge ear wax, facilitating its natural expulsion from the ear canal. Be sure to consult with a clinician first for brand recommendations and instructions for using ear drops at home. 
ear drops

Baking Soda & Water

Baking Soda & Water

Did you know that baking soda and water can help soften ear wax, making it easier to remove?

  • Mix 1/2 tablespoon of baking soda with 2 ounces of warm water
  • Drip several drops of the mixture into one ear using a dropper.
  • Finally, tilt your head to the side and allow the solution to drain from the ear.

Just remember to avoid using a Q-Tip® or inserting any object in your ear to remove the loosened ear wax.

Baking soda

Oil

Natural Oils

Using natural oils, such as olive or coconut oil, is another safe way to soften ear wax at home. Try this technique by following these steps:

  • Warm the oil slightly (you don't want this hot)
  • Apply 1 or 2 drops to the ear canal with a dropper
  • Tilt your head to let the oil sit in your ear for a few minutes
  • Then, tilt your head the other way to let the oil drain out
  • Clean your ear with a warm, damp cloth
olive oil

Expert Removal

Professional Help

If you're experiencing persistent issues with ear wax, it might be time to consider professional services.

Ear irrigation and micro-suction are two methods that hearing care providers commonly use to clean out earwax buildup .

  • Ear Irrigation utilizes water and suction to gently flush the ear canal, which can effectively remove excess wax
  • Micro-suction utilizes a gentle suction device, allowing for the safe removal of ear wax under direct vision.

These techniques should only be performed by a licensed hearing care provider.

Ear exam

FAQs about Ear Candling

Below are answers to a few popular questions about ear candling that you'll want to share with others. 

Do ear candles remove wax?

No. There is no scientific evidence to support that an earwax candle effectively removes ear wax.

What is the brown stuff in ear candles?

The brown residue found inside ear candles primarily originates from the candle itself, not ear wax. This is a common reason why individuals are mistaken in believing that ear candles create a vacuum which removes ear wax. 

Do doctors recommend ear candling?

No. Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) physicians and audiologists across the country agree that ear candling is ineffective and carries serious risks of injury and hearing complications.

Will ear candles unclog my ear?

No. There is no scientific evidence supporting the claim that ear candles can effectively unclog the ears. Find safe, alternative solutions for unclogging your ears in our guide.
Ear pain

Dealing with Earwax Buildup?

The best way to effectively remove ear wax buildup is by working with a hearing care provider near you. Not sure if you're covered? You can quickly check your benefits using our online tool. From there, we'll connect you with a local quality provider so you can start experiencing relief.

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