You might have seen the ear candling trend taking off on social media. It is being pitched as one of the best ways to get right of all that stuff in your ear that can be uncomfortable and cause problems. One of the reasons ear candling has taken off is because the process is not only satisfying to watch but also satisfying to do - it really does seem to work. But how safe is ear candling - does it actually work - and can you do it at home?
What is ear candling?
It’s very simple - you lie on one side with your head at a tilt and place a cone shaped candle in one ear. You then light the candle and let it burn as low as possible. When the candle is out and you open up the inside it appears to be full of all the ear wax that was previously in your ear. But is that actually what’s happening? One theory is that as the candle burns slowly down it creates a vacuum that sucks out the wax from your ear. Or that the candle melts the wax, which then gradually comes out of the ear in the following days. These are the theories that many people seem to find the most convincing and the ones that support all the social media success.
Does it actually work?
The reality is that there is no evidence to suggest that ear candling actually does the job it appears to do. Studies of ear candling have found that the heat of the candle is not actually enough to melt ear wax and the impact of the burning candle doesn’t create a vacuum that would be strong enough to suck the wax from the ear. Those same studies showed that what appears to be ear wax in the bottom of the candle, is actually just accumulated fabric. Not only that but, worryingly, there have actually now been a number of cases where people who were trying to use ear candling to deal with ear wax problems have actually ended up making them worse. Some have created deeper problems as the candle has pushed wax further into the ear, causing it to become impacted. Other people have suffered damage to their ear drum from hot wax, which has caused temporary or permanent hearing loss.
So how can you deal with ear wax?
The simple answer is that you don’t need to. Ear wax is a natural defence mechanism in the body and is there to keep our ears clean and safe. Putting something like a cotton bud into your ear can actually create issues because the ears have a natural way of pushing ear wax out themselves that can be disrupted when an object is inserted into the space. If your ears are super waxy the best approach is to simply wipe the excess from the ear canal - or speak to an ENT specialist if you feel like something more serious is going on.
Ear candling is not the fast fix it appears to be - and in some situations could even be dangerous.