Ear Candling: Risks, Harms, & Safer Alternatives

You may have heard the phrase “fight fire with fire.” But have you heard of removing earwax with wax?

That is the theory behind an ancient practice called “ear candling,” also called “ear coning” — a controversial method of reducing wax build-up in the ear canal. 

Earwax, also known as cerumen, is a natural waxy, oily substance produced by glands in the ear canals. It acts as a barrier to keep dirt, viruses, and bacteria from entering your body through your ears.

Under normal circumstances, earwax drains out of the ear canal to the outer ear, where it dries up and falls away. However, earwax can sometimes build up and block the ear canal. This impacted earwax can cause uncomfortable symptoms, including hearing loss.

One of the more unconventional ways to attempt to remove earwax is ear candling.

Ear candling dates to 2500 B.C and thought to be practiced by the early Egyptians and ancient Greeks.

It is supposed to work like this: you place a special hollow ear cone or candle in your affected ear, wick side facing out, and once in position, you light the candle. Manufacturers of these ear coning tools claim it creates a low-level vacuum inside the ear, which draws out the wax that may be clogging your ear. Despite claims that this home remedy works, scientific studies have not shown this to be true.

The negative effects of ear candling can include:

  • You can suffer severe burns from the flame or the hot wax. A burn to the ear could permanently jeopardize your hearing.
  • Candle wax can clog up your ear canal after it cools. You could wind up temporarily losing your hearing or even needing surgery in serious cases.
  • You could perforate your eardrum if the candle is pushed too deep into the ear canal. 

Most people do not have to be concerned about cleaning earwax out of their ears. That is because our ears are really good at cleaning themselves. However, some people will experience uncommonly heavy earwax production. 

If you do need to clean out your ears because of excessive wax, there are safer, scientifically proven, and reliable methods to do so. For example, you could use an over-the-counter irrigation kit that uses a fluid wash to help soften the wax and make it easier to remove. 

You can also ask a healthcare provider to do a professional earwax removal. This is the safest and most effective way to remove excess earwax.

American Family Care has a medical team on staff who can help you clear your ears. You never need an appointment, and we offer extended hours on weekdays and weekends, too. 

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