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Ear candling or Hopi candles

WebMD Medical Reference
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Ear wax is a natural lubricant for the ear. It waterproofs the ear and it has an acidic pH, so it helps in preventing infections.

Given the benefits of earwax to the body, why would you want to remove it?

While it's uncommon, some people do have a build-up of wax that causes itching and impaired hearing - and that's where ear candling comes in. It's marketed as an easy at-home solution for people with this problem and involves taking a candle-shaped beeswax cone, placing it in the ear, lighting it, and after the wick burns down, removing the cone - along with ear wax and other impurities.

Unfortunately, lighting a flame inches from your ear isn't easy, and in fact, it can be dangerous.

The hearing charity Action on Hearing Loss cautions again using ear candles. It says medical research has shown that ear candling is "both dangerous and ineffective". The group says it does not help to remove earwax and may result in serious injury.

In 2006, the Journal of Laryngology & Otology went further, saying: "A critical assessment of the evidence shows that its mode of action is implausible and demonstrably wrong."

In an article called 'Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science', the journal also said ear candles have been associated with ear injuries, they may do more harm than good and that their use should be discouraged.

Seek medical advice about a build-up of ear wax. Over-the-counter ear drops are available.

Cotton buds – or anything else for that matter - should not be inserted into in the canal of the ear as there's a risk of packing wax in tighter, as well as the risk of puncturing the eardrum.

Reviewed on November 10, 2016

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