For The Last Time, Ear Candling Doesn't Work

So stop doing it.

Much like popping a pimple, there's something weirdly satisfying about getting the gunk out of your ear. Never mind it's actually there for a reason and you're messing with the natural order of things by removing it, ear wax is one of those things we just seem to love to get rid of.

One of the methods purported to be effective at wax removal is ear candling, an alternative medicine practice which involves lighting one end of a hollow candle and placing the other end in the ear.

Advocates say the heat generated by the flame helps to create a vacuum which sucks out the wax along with other ear debris. Better yet, you can cut open the candle at the end and examine all the nasties first-hand.

Which may all sound fair enough except for the fact it categorically does not work.

"Ear candling is not good," Dr Christopher Brennan-Jones, senior research fellow at the Ear Science Institute Australia told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's proven to not work, so it offers no therapeutic benefit. It doesn't soften the ear wax or remove it, and the hypothesis that the candle creates a negative pressure in the ear candle and that's what sucks it out simply isn't true."

What is common is facial burns and perforated ear drums from a bit of ash landing on the ear drum.

According to Brennan-Jones, even that gunky stuff you find inside the candle at the end of the session doesn't have anything to do with the contents of your ear.

"All that is is ash from the candle that has burnt," he said. "It's not toxins or wax from your ear."

Furthermore, not only is the practice ineffective, it can also prove to be dangerous.

"What is common is facial burns and perforated ear drums from a bit of ash or whatever landing on the ear drum," Brennan-Jones said.

"It's a thin piece of skin and very easily perforated. We see it in welders sometimes, when a little spark has gone into their ear. It's not pleasant."

This poor man got his muscles out for nothing.
This poor man got his muscles out for nothing.

What's even worse is the fact perforated ear drums can be notoriously tricky to heal, depending on the circumstances.

"Sometimes the ear drum can heal spontaneously, which is great, but you'll still need specialist appointments to make sure all is going okay," Brennan-Jones said. "Other times you will need surgery to fix it.

"There are actually quite a few risks associated with ear candling, and it doesn't even work to begin with."

If you are desperate to clean out your ears, for whatever reason, Brennan-Jones says your best bet is to use oil.

Olive oil. Who knew?
Olive oil. Who knew?

"You can use natural oils, such as almond oil or olive oil, which soften the wax and promotes the migration of the wax out of the ear," Brennan-Jones said.

"You only need to use about half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of oil, then leave it in the ear overnight. The wax should come out gradually."

Failing this, Brennan-Jones recommends seeing a specialist. In the meantime however, he offers one important piece of advice.

"Don't put anything in your ear smaller than your elbow​."

And, yes, people. That goes for cotton tips, too.