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Cerumen (also known as ear wax) is the "yellow or brown waxy secretions produced by vestigial apocrine sweat glands in the external ear canal."[1]

Cerumen impaction

Impactions are more common with hearing aids. Impactions can be treat with either/or:[2][3]

  • cerumenolytic agents. These may be water-based (such as saline, acetic acid or hydrogen peroxide), oil-based (not true cerumenolytics), or other. No type is clearly superior.[4]
  • irrigation
  • manual removal other than irrigation

"Ear candling" or "ear coning" is an approach advocated by some proponents of alternative medicine. It consists of inserting a special hollow candle into the ear canal while the patient is lying on his or her side and then lighting the candle. Proponents of this claim that it will both unblock cerumen buildups and also reduce pressure on the sinuses, cure earaches, tinnitus and generally improve mental and physical health and well-being. After use, the candle is typically split open by the proponent of the technique to show the removed wax. Skeptical investigators claim that the wax is not being removed from the ear but is rather a side effect of burning the candle. The use of ear candling is not recommended by doctors and the devices are not approved for any medical use by the United States of America Food and Drug Administration.[5]


  1. Anonymous (2023), Cerumen (English). Medical Subject Headings. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
  2. Roland PS et al. Clinical practice guideline: Cerumen impaction. Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery 2008DOI:10.1016/j.otohns.2008.06.026
  3. Clegg AJ, Loveman E, Gospodarevskaya E, Harris P, Bird A, Bryant J et al. (2010). "The safety and effectiveness of different methods of earwax removal: a systematic review and economic evaluation.". Health Technol Assess 14 (28): 1-192. DOI:10.3310/hta14280. PMID 20546687. Research Blogging.
  4. Burton MJ, Dorée CJ (2003). "Ear drops for the removal of ear wax". Cochrane Database Syst Rev (3): CD004400. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD004400. PMID 12918014. Research Blogging.
  5. Lisa Roazen, M.D., Why ear candling is not a good idea, Quackwatch.