Hearsay About Earwax

Ear candling is promoted as an ancient healing practice and a natural way to cleanse your ears. But it's neither "natural" nor safe.

Ear candling is promoted as an ancient healing practice and a natural way to cleanse your ears. It is also called coning. Many websites sell inexpensive kits, and some beauty salons and spas offer it as a "relaxation" service. But it’s neither "natural" nor safe.

  • The procedure involves inserting the narrow end of a hollow cone, filled with paraffin or beeswax, into the ear canal and lighting the other end.
  • This supposedly creates a vacuum that draws wax out of the ear.
  • Proponents claim it also treats tinnitus, migraines, postnasal drip, allergies, coughs, and many other ills.

There’s no evidence to support any medical benefits.

  • According to studies, ear candling does not create enough suction to extract ear wax. It also can leave candle wax behind.
  • Worse, it can burn the ear canal, perforate the eardrum, and cause infection. And it’s a fire hazard.
  • Serious injuries have been reported. The FDA has taken legal action against marketers and seized products.
  • One review concluded that ear candling "clearly does more harm than good" and should be banned.

Better ways

Earwax is secreted by glands in the outer ear canal, and it serves a purpose: it prevents debris from entering deeper into the ear canal.

  • The ear is self-cleaning anyway, meaning that most old wax dries up and migrates out on its own.
  • But impacted earwax (typically from improper use of cotton-tipped swabs that push the wax deeper into the ear) can block hearing and cause other symptoms.

If you have excess wax buildup, you can try removing it with warm (not hot) mineral or vegetable oil. Only do this if you know you do not have a perforated eardrum.

  • Put a drop or two in your ear with an eyedropper, and wait 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Then, using a bulb syringe, flush the ear with warm water. Hold your head upright and then tilting it to allow the water to drain.
  • Repeat as necessary over a few days until the wax comes out.
  • Over-the-counter wax softeners are generally safe. But no more effective than mineral oil.

Though hydrogen peroxide is often recommended as a remedy, it doesn’t do much and may cause problems. Don’t use it. If home treatments don’t work, your doctor can remove the earwax.