Ear Candling for Earwax Removal

Is it a safe way to remove earwax?

Ear candling is an alternative approach for earwax (cerumen) removal. It involves placing a lit, hollow candle in your ear. Proponents say lighting it creates suction that pulls out earwax.

This article explores how it's done, whether it works, the safety concerns and side effects, and whether you should try it.

 Verywell / Lara Antal

How Is Ear Candling Done?

Ear candles are also called ear cones or auricular candles. They're hollow tubes about 10 inches long.

They're made of cotton or linen that's wound tightly into a cone shape. It's then soaked in beeswax, paraffin, or soy wax, and allowed to harden.

During an ear candling session:

  • You lie on one side with the ear to be treated facing up.
  • The candle is usually through a hole in a paper or foil plate. That's to catch wax drips.
  • It's then put into the external ear canal.
  • The top of the candle is lit and held there.

The healthcare provider then trims away burnt material while the candle burns. It ends after several minutes or when the candle stub is a few inches from your head.

The practitioner removes the candle and puts out the flame. Then they wipe your outer ear clean with a cotton ball or pad.

Does Ear Candling Work?

Ear-candling proponents say lighting the hollow cones creates a low-level vacuum. That, they claim, softens earwax. Then, wax and other "impurities" are said to be pulled from the ear and into the hollow candle.

After the procedure, a dark, waxy substance is sometimes left in the hollow candle stub. Proponents say it's earwax and other debris.

But critics of ear candling say it's a byproduct of the burning candle. Science comes down on this side.

A study tested the theory and found ear candles didn't produce a vacuum or negative pressure. It also said the waxy remains were made of substances from candle wax, not earwax.

Researchers said ear candling didn't remove earwax from the ear canal. Sometimes, it left candle wax behind in the ear.

Some proponents claim ear candling can treat:

This is unlikely, though. Those conditions involve the middle ear, sinuses, Eustachian tube, and nasal passages.

But the eardrum (tympanic membrane) separates those structures from the external ear canal. Any changes created in the external canal would be unable to affect anything beyond the membrane.

Some ear-candle manufacturers claim smoke from the burning candles dries the ear canal. They say that stimulates your body's natural excretion of:

  • Wax
  • Dead cells
  • Pollen
  • Mold
  • Parasites
  • Other debris 

There's no evidence supporting any of these claims.

Recap

Ear candling is done with a hollow candle placed in your ear and lit. Proponents say it removes wax and other ear debris by creating suction. They claim it can treat a number of ailments.

No evidence supports ear candling for any use. Studies show the waxy substance left in the candle is from the candle, not your ear.

Safety and Side Effects

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns about using lit candles close to your face.

They say it carries a high risk of "potentially severe skin/hair burns and middle ear damage." That's even when the candles are used according to the manufacturer's directions.

Serious potential risks of ear candling include:

  • Hot-wax burns and damage to the ear, skin, and hair from the hot wax
  • Obstruction or blockage of the ear canal due to dripping wax
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Hearing loss
  • Otitis externa (outer ear infection)

The most frequently reported ear-candling problem is burns. They're caused by both the flame and hot wax.

Some practitioners use a plate to catch dripping wax plus a towel or cloth for extra protection. But risks remain even then. There's also the risk that lit ear candles could start a fire.

In a published case report, ear candling left a woman with:

  • Pieces of candle wax in her ear
  • A perforated eardrum
  • Hearing loss

The authors said ear candling "can do more harm than good." They recommended that healthcare providers discourage it.

Ear candling may be especially dangerous for people with existing eardrum perforation, babies, and young children.

Recap

Ear candling can cause burns on your face, perforated eardrum, and hearing loss. Risks remain even if the practitioner follows the manufacturer's directions and uses extra precautions.

Should You Try Ear Candling?

Ear candling has no evidence supporting its use. And it comes with risks. The medical community says you shouldn't try it.

Plus, earwax isn't a bad thing. It cleans and lubricates your ear and can protect the ear canal from bacteria and fungus.

The ear has a self-cleaning system that naturally removes earwax. Most people don't need additional cleaning.

The American Academy of Otolaryngology guidelines, based on the evidence, say healthcare providers "should recommend against ear candling for treating or preventing" earwax buildup.

A breakdown in this self-cleaning system can cause what's known as cerumen impaction. That's when your ear canal is clogged with earwax.

An earwax blockage can cause symptoms like hearing loss or dizziness. If you suspect a blockage, see your healthcare provider. They can assess whether you have a blockage and how to safely remove it.

Summary

Ear-candling proponents say placing a lit, hollow candle in your ear removes earwax and can treat a number of illnesses. No evidence supports this.

Studies show the waxy substance left on the candle comes from the candle. It's not from your ear.

Risks of ear candling include burns, a perforated eardrum, and hearing loss.

There's no evidence it works and some evidence it doesn't. Add that to serious safety concerns and you have a procedure that's best avoided.

A Word From Verywell

Claims about alternative practices often seem to make sense. They're sometimes touted as safe and "all-natural."

Remember that these claims may not be backed by science. And even "natural" substances can be harmful.

Meanwhile, modern medical practices have been researched. Evidence and experience show they're safe and effective.

Your healthcare provider can help sort the bad advice from the good and guide your healthcare decisions.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What’s the best way to remove earwax at home?

    Hydrogen peroxide drops can soften wax that has built up. You can then remove it with a bulb syringe.

    Keep in mind earwax is protective. It keeps out bacteria, dirt, and foreign objects. You don’t want to get rid of it all.

  • Can ear candling relieve a sinus infection?

    No. There's no evidence that ear candling can help a sinus infections or any other problems. Some evidence suggests it doesn't work. Medical experts warn against ear candling because of safety concerns.

  • What comes out during ear candling?

    Nothing seems to come out of your ear during candling, according to research. The substance on the stub afterward is from the candle itself, not your ear.

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6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  3. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Import alert 77-01.

  4. Schwartz SR, Magit AE, Rosenfeld RM, et al. Clinical practice guideline (update): Earwax (cerumen impaction). Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2017;156(1_suppl):S1-S29. doi:10.1177/0194599816671491

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