Ear Candles Effective or Dangerous

Ear Candles: Effective or Dangerous?

In Ear Health by Laurie Duffy, M.S.

Laurie Duffy, M.S.

There are many ways to clean the ears at home and some are safer than others. Recently people have become interested in an alternative method of cleaning out the ears using “ear candling”. Ear candles claim to create a suction using heat, to pull earwax and debris out of your ear canal. While this method has been popular in alternative healing communities, many doctors are skeptical if this process actually works, or if it could cause more problems than it solves.

All About Earwax

While many may consider earwax to be “gross,” it actually has an important function. Earwax, also known as cerumen, actually is a natural antibacterial cleaner for your ear canal. With natural antibacterial properties earwax collects dirt and debris and removes it from your ear canal. 

In most cases it is a good idea to leave earwax alone as trying to stick anything in your ear, larger than a football could potentially damage the fragile parts of the inner ear. However, there are instances where earwax can become hardened or build up causing more earwax than your ear can expel. When this sort of blockage occurs, you are prone to conductive hearing loss, which is  blockage of the ear canal. This can create temporary hearing loss as well as a blockage of the ear’s natural cleaning properties. 

What are Ear Candles

Ear candles are hollow candles in a cone shape consisting of  wax-covered fabric. The idea is that the pointed end of the candle is placed in your ear canal while lying on your side. The other end of the ear candle is set on fire. The idea is that the heat will soften the curcumin and create a suction effect, removing blockages, dirt and debris from your ear canal that cannot be reached using other methods. In addition to clearing blockages, ear candles also claim to clear out sinuses, reducing sinus pain. When you remove the earwax from your ear it is claimed that you will find your earwax all along the inner wall of your ear candle.

Are Ear Candles Safe?

Many healthcare professionals warn that ear candles can be incredibly unsafe, leaving many subject to burns, due to placing a flame so close to your head. In addition to this fire risk many audiologists have found that it has actually put patients at risk for more ear blockages or temporary hearing loss. 

“Ear candling has been linked to several adverse effects in case reports and a survey of otolaryngologists,” explains the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). “The most frequently reported adverse effect is burns from the lighted candle or hot wax. Other potential adverse effects include occlusion of the ear canal with candle wax, temporary hearing loss, otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), and tympanic membrane (ear drum) perforation.”

How to Clean Your Ears Safely       

In most instances your ears do the work of cleaning themselves for you. The earwax in your ears will carry the dirt out of your ears. The most you will normally have to do is wipe curcumin out of your outer ear after a hot shower with a soft cloth. The heat and moisture from this will be enough to soften earwax so it can be easily removed. 

Most doctors will try to persuade you from using anything else to remove earwax including cotton swabs. Cotton swabs can damage the fragile parts of your inner ear or potentially puncture your eardrum. There are instances where earwax can become so severe or build up to the point where it creates a blockage, causing hearing loss. In these instances, it is always a better idea to leave it to a professional rather than trying to do it at home. It just takes one mistake to damage your ears and hearing permanently. A nose ear and throat doctor will flush your ears with water to loosen the impacted wax and unblock your ear canal. 

Hearing Health Services

Most earwax will clear itself up on its own. While the idea of an ear candle may seem fun or satisfying most often the dark wax on the inside of the candle is just burnt wax from the candle itself. If you are having an issue with your hearing or excess earwax, make sure to make an appointment today and avoid making your hearing situation worse than it was before.