A woman getting treated for ear wax

Ear Candles: Effective or Dangerous?

Have you felt like your ears are plugged, or that you might have a build up of earwax in your ear canal? Do sounds seem muffled, and does if feel like all the sounds around you have been turned down a notch or two? You may have hearing loss, and need to seek help from a hearing health specialist, but you may also be suffering from a buildup of ear wax. If you have excessive ear wax in your ear canal, you may have been considering using ear candles to get rid of this extra ear wax. Before you light that wick, take a moment to consider if ear candles are effective or dangerous.

The Role of Ear Wax

Like many Americans, you might think that ear wax is a bit gross, and the sticky substance in your ears often gets a bad reputation. However, ear wax plays an important role in the health of your ears. Ear wax is responsible for keeping your ears clean, and preventing dirt, dust, debris, or moisture from reaching the ear drum in the middle ear. Any foreign matter that enters the ear canal is trapped in the sticky ear wax, and doesn’t get far down the ear canal. Ear wax is healthy!

Should You Use Q-Tips to Clean Your Ears?

Surprisingly, your ears are self-cleaning! When dust and dirt is trapped in the ear wax, the wax hardens and loosens, becoming less sticky. This hard ear wax slowly makes its way out of the ear canal and falls out or is washed away in the shower.

When you clean your ears with Q-tips or cotton swabs, you could be inhibiting this natural cleaning process. Rather than allowing the hardened wax to exit the ear canal, you may be pushing the hardened wax back into the ear canal, and causing a blockage at the ear drum. This is called an ear wax impaction, and impacted ear wax could be causing symptoms of hearing loss. Not only that, but using Q-tips could prove extremely dangerous if you damage or puncture your ear drum. This will cause terrible pain, and lasting damage to your hearing.

Are Ear Candles Effective or Dangerous?

Ear candling is used to clean the wax from your ear canal, and is sometimes used to treat sinus pain, as well as tinnitus and the symptoms of hearing loss. The candle is inserted into the ear canal, as the person lays on their side. It’s lit, and left in the ear for a few minutes, and the heat from the flame softens the ear wax in the ear, and draws it up towards the surface. When you remove the candle from the ear, you’ll find a brown, waxy substance at the end of the candle, and this is believed to be dried wax and dirt that’s been drawn out of the ear canal.

While some people claim that ear candles are very effective when it comes to removing excessive ear wax from the ear canal, doctors warn that it could be very unsafe. The ear canal wax could cause a temporary blockage of the ear canal, or temporary hearing loss. “Ear candling has been linked to several adverse effects in case reports and a survey of otolaryngologists,” explains the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database (NMCD). “The most frequently reported adverse effect is burns from the lighted candle or hot wax. Other potential adverse effects include occlusion of the ear canal with candle wax, temporary hearing loss, otitis externa (swimmer’s ear), and tympanic membrane (ear drum) perforation.”

Cleaning Your Ears the Right Way

If you’ve noticed an uncomfortable build up of ear wax, visit your doctor and ask them to check your ears. If you have a buildup of ear wax, they’ll flush your ears with water to loosen the impacted wax, and unblock your ear canal. Remember, never clean your ears with anything smaller than an elbow!

My Hearing Centers

If you’ve noticed any of the signs of hearing loss, visit us today at My Hearing Centers for a comprehensive hearing test. We’ll test your ability to hear in high and low registers, and will also perform a visual exam to look for injury, infection, or impacted ear wax that could be affecting your hearing health.