The truth about ear candles

Our ears are pretty good at self-cleaning, with wax usually migrating out of the ear over time. Movement of this wax is helped by talking and chewing, but during our lifetime, many of us may have issues with an earwax build-up.

If you’re experiencing problems, we recommend a few drops of olive oil in the ear, applied twice daily for a few days. It’s important not to push anything into your ears, like fingers or cotton buds, as this forces wax deeper into the ear canal. Olive oil helps soften the wax and is good for longer-term use, especially recurrent issues.

Another option is sodium bicarbonate drops. These don’t just soften the wax, but actually work towards dissolving it. However, they’re not recommended for continuous use – and always consult a hearing health professional before starting any type of ear drop, especially if you have other ear issues such as grommets, perforations or scarred eardrums.

The next safest method of removal microsuctioning by a professional, which involves a small suction unit gently pulling wax from the ear canal.

So, what about candles? You may have seen them online in various blogs and videos, but what exactly does the fad claim to do? And does it actually work? Many people swear by candles and say they successfully get rid of earwax. Others claim they help with tinnitus, ear infections, hearing problems and stress.

What is ear candling?

Ear candles are hollow fabric cones covered in candle wax such as paraffin, bee or soy. The pointed end of the candle is placed in your ear and the wider end is lit, then the candle is burned for around ten to 15 minutes.

Many claim that, as the candle burns, it creates a gentle suction that pulls earwax out of your ear canal. Another theory is that it softens the wax, allowing it to fall out over the next few days.

However, there is no scientific confirmation that ear candles work – and no studies support these analogous claims. In truth, there’s a limited degree of logic at play. If there was any suction created, it would be far too low to pull the wax up into the candle. Also, the temperature of the candle burning is – at the narrow end – below body temperature and therefore too low to melt earwax.

The supposed ‘earwax’ found at the end of treatment is actually just the debris from the candle and fabric itself. Candling is therefore not the best way to remove wax from your ears!

The FDA has warned people that risks are high and ear candling provides no medical benefit. Potential dangers include:

  • Candle wax dripping on to your face.
  • Candle wax dripping into your ear canal, damaging the highly sensitive skin or causing a blockage.
  • The candle actually pushing wax deeper into your ear canal.
  • Risk of infection.
  • Ash being left in the ear.

If you think you have a problem with earwax, please seek professional advice!

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