Earwax Coning and Cleaning

unsafe earwax candling

The function of earwax is simple. It provides a barrier from external contaminants, lubricates the ear canal and its acidic nature wards off fungal infections.

Many of my new patients believe that excessive earwax is the cause of their hearing loss. Truth be told, accumulated earwax is almost never the problem. Most hearing loss is due to noise exposure and maladies associated with our aging population, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart and kidney disease, just to name a few.

In a mistaken belief that their hearing will be improved, people have fallen prey to wax removal schemes designed to separate them from their Be careful of wax-removing schemesmoney. One such method is called coning or ear candling. This is a process that allegedly removes the wax by burning it. The wax-laden individual is instructed to lie on his/her side and the practitioner inserts a cone-shaped piece of paper into the ear canal. The paper is then ignited and the client is told the fire will vaporize the wax, thus removing it from the ear.


Most impacted earwax is hard and dry and needs to be softened with liquid before it can be removed. If the wax truly could be “burned,” the ear canal would also be burned because the wax couldn’t possibly vaporize quickly enough.

I’m reminded of a client whose daughter-in-law convinced him that he needed coning to help him hear. He agreed to have it done on a Friday night. By Monday morning, he was in my office, complaining that he could not hear with his hearing aids. Inspection of the hearing aids and ear canals confirmed that both were completely filled with paper ash residue. After I cleaned the hearing aids, and he saw his physician for a proper ear cleaning, his hearing ability returned.

When I am queried about coning (candling), my response is that it has no practical value and should never be considered.

Some people who wear hearing aids require periodic ear cleaning to maintain maximum hearing aid performance. The safest and most effective way to manage earwax is to have a medical doctor, preferably an ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT), remove it. He/she may use irrigation, suction or an instrument called a cerumen spoon. I will be happy to recommend an ENT if you need one.

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