Ear Candles: Effective or Dangerous?

In Earwax, Hearing Loss Treatment by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A

Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A
Latest posts by Jeff Baller, Au.D., CCC-A (see all)

If you find yourself in conversation with someone interested in natural and homeopathic remedies, you might hear about something called an ear candle. These devices are sold in some health food stores and specialty shops online. Many of them look like a wax-coated spiral piece of paper that has unfurled like a party favor, forming a long conical shape. 

How can something like this be used? And, more importantly, is it effective or dangerous? Let’s take a closer look at ear candles, how they are intended to be used, and the potential danger that can come from using them. 

How are ear candles used?

An ear candle is used to create a warm flow of air and a gentle suctioning force from the ear. The narrower end of the ear candle is meant to be inserted into the ear. The person is advised to lie down on the other ear, with the candle pointing straight upward. When in place, the other end of the ear candle is lit on fire! When the top of the cone is slowly burning down, the ear candle generates heat around the ear, and the conical shape pulls air upward from the ear canal. Once the candle gets close to the head of the individual, it either goes out automatically or needs to be blown out. You can imagine the safety concerns for someone trying to do this activity on their own. 

What is the intended effect?

The purpose of this process is to draw earwax up the ear canal and into the outer ear. Some of that earwax can even accumulate on the base of the ear candle if the suctioning force is strong enough. Those who advocate for their use suggest that getting earwax out of your ears is also removing “toxins” from the body. However, we know that healthy ears are equipped to expel earwax on their own. By simply wiping out the outer ear with a clean, damp cloth, unsightly earwax excess can be removed while allowing the ears to maintain a healthy equilibrium of earwax production, moisturization, and protection. 

Are ear candles effective or dangerous?

As you might have guessed, ear candles can be quite dangerous. In the first place, lighting an open flame so close to your head comes with its own dangers. If you have long hair or a piece of debris catches fire, it can be very dangerous so close to your head. Beyond the obvious dangers of using a fire close to your body, the process of ear candling can upset the delicate balance of your inner ear, as well. The air pressure necessary to suck the earwax out of your ear can put a strain on the fragile elements of the ear canal, and in worst-case scenarios, you can even do harm to those features of the ear. In addition, pulling earwax out of your ear can upset the balance of earwax that is necessary for ear health. 

The Importance of Earwax

Although it is possible to accumulate too much earwax in the ear, it is also quite possible to have too little. Earwax performs the crucial function of catching dirt, debris, and dust before it can get into the middle or inner ear. Tiny particles stick to the earwax layer which is eventually expelled from the canal into the outer ear. This protective process can keep damaging objects out of the ear as well as harmful bacteria.

 When you have an underproduction of earwax, this debris and bacteria can more easily make their way into the ear canal where you might injure the eardrum or develop an ear infection. For these reasons, ear candles might remove some of the necessary earwax that you need to protect yourself. 

Hearing Health with a Professional

Although the experiment can be enticing, ear candles are both dangerous and ineffective at promoting ear health. Instead of taking this practice into your own hands, you should seek support from a hearing health professional. 

Our team will be able to diagnose your ear health and perform any necessary procedures if the time comes. More serious issues, like impacted earwax, can be addressed from a medical perspective rather than through a dangerous home remedy. Contact us today to learn more!