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Dear Sasquatch: Does Ear Candling Work?

Dear Sasquatch:

My aunt and cousin swear by regular ear candling to remove toxins. I have a sinus infection, and my cousin tells me the ear candling clears the sinuses as well. Is this true? Is there any benefit to this?

–Vin L.

Dear Vin:

Ear candling has no effect whatsoever–if you are lucky. The practice can cause burns, candle wax going into the ears (sometimes requiring surgery to remove), obstruction of the ear canal, perforated ear drums, and, of course, fire.

The practice of ear candling (also called coning) involves basically sticking a candle in your ear through a plate and lighting the candle. Supposedly, the candle sucks out ear wax and “toxins” and deposits them on the plate. Researchers have found, though, that the candle creates no negative pressure, which would be required to suck anything out, and that the substance on the plate is simply candle wax mixed with ash.

The claim about sinuses is based on the mistaken idea that “everything is connected,” but the ear drum blocks any passage between ear and sinuses (and the ear drum isn’t porous).

Even if candling worked, you don’t want to do it. Your ear wax is protective, naturally trapping dirt and bacteria and working its way out of your ear. The potential for injury aside, removing the wax leaves the inner ear vulnerable to damage and infection. People do sometimes have too much wax buildup that gets compacted, but this should be removed by a health care professional, not by the person sticking something in their ear, a candle or anything else.


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Images from Wikimedia Commons and adapted from iBjorn.

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Skeptical Sasquatch is an amateur tabloid photographer and filmmaker, beauty expert, and jetsetter (for security purposes). Tired of all the lies spread about him by cryptoloonologists and various crackpots, he joined Teen Skepchick to speak for himself about the skeptical issues of the day and to add species diversity.

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  1. March 22, 2013 at 2:59 am —

    Oh… sometimes I use a q-tip to remove ear wax. Should I not be doing this?

  2. March 22, 2013 at 11:27 am —

    You aren’t supposed to stick anything in your ear because of the risk of damage, but clearing the wax more on the outer part is fine, I think, since it’s already working its way out. The inner wax is protective. If it’s excessive and disrupting your hearing, though, a doctor can remove the excess safely and look into the cause.

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