Ear Candles: Effective or Dangerous?

Carli Van Harken
Latest posts by Carli Van Harken (see all)

If you’re looking for ways to remove earwax from your ear canals, you may have come across ear candles. Some people say they’re very effective, but you should think twice about using ear candles. Here’s what you need to know about using ear candles, and some of the dangers of using them to remove earwax from your ears.

What are Ear Candles?

Ear candles are a home remedy for removing a buildup of earwax from your ear canals. Ear candles are usually about 10 inches long, and they’re hollow in the middle. To use an ear candle, you lay on your side, put the bottom of the candle into your ear, then light the top. The candle stays burning for over 10 minutes. The heat from the candle softens the earwax and draws it up out of your ear. This might sound like an effective solution. However, using ear candles can actually be quite dangerous.

Ear Candles Are Dangerous

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is warning Americans about the risks of ear candles. Ear candles are dangerous and a lot can go wrong. Some of the possible side effects of using ear candles include:

  • Burning the outer ear, ear canal, face, or hair
  • Starting a fire
  • Puncturing the eardrum
  • Experiencing pain
  • Dripping hot candle wax into the ear canal or onto the eardrum
  • Leaving candle wax or candle debris in the ear canal
  • Experiencing hearing loss

Using ear candles poses a number of health and safety risks that make ear candles very dangerous.

Earwax is Good for You

You may think that earwax is sticky and gross, and you’re not wrong. But it’s important to remember that earwax is good for you. In fact, it has a very important function. Ear wax can trap any dirt, dust, debris, or bacteria in the ear canal and keep the middle and inner ear safe. If you don’t have enough earwax in your ear canals, your ears will probably feel dry or even itchy.

Earwax is also self-cleaning. When earwax gets dirty it dries out. Then it slowly gets worked out of the ear canal when you chew, swallow, or talk. Eventually it will fall out of the ear canal or get washed away in the shower.

When to Remove Earwax

Since earwax is important for healthy ears, you shouldn’t remove earwax unless it is causing a problem. Some people can experience a buildup of earwax in the ear canal from an overproduction of earwax. This is more common in older adults. People with hearing aids may also have more earwax, since the hearing aids make it harder for the earwax to naturally come out of the ear.

These are the signs that you might have a build up of earwax that needs to be removed:

  • You notice a full feeling in the ear
  • Sounds seem very muffled, as if they’re coming from far away
  • You have recently noticed tinnitus, or a ringing in your ears
  • You have an earache or ear pain
  • You notice a discharge from your ears or notice a strange smell

If you recognize any of these signs, it might be time to safely remove this buildup of earwax.

How to Safely Remove Ear Wax

If you have a build up of earwax in the ear, don’t clean your ear canals with your finger or with a Q-tip! Any small object you put in your ear canal can actually push the earwax further back down the ear canal and make it harder to get out. Instead, you can use earwax drops to soften the earwax and help it come out naturally.

Another safe way to remove earwax is to visit your doctor for irrigation. The doctor will warm water and water pressure to flush out the ear canal and remove earwax that’s built up in your ear canal.

Learn More About Your Ears

Our hearing health specialists can answer all your hearing health questions. Schedule a hearing test and find out more about your ears. We’ll also do a visual exam to check for any signs of illness or injury in your ear, as well as look for any buildup of earwax in your ear canals.