Screw The Woo Woo: Please Don’t Put Candles in Your Ears (Something I Never Thought I’d Have To Write)

As long as the Internet exists, I will (sadly) NEVER run out of things to blog about on the woo woo front. Scratch that, as long as people exist, I’ll never run out of things to blog about on the woo woo front. For today’s installment, I’ll be covering the bizarre and dangerous practice of ear candling.

Ear candling. As in shoving a FUCKING CANDLE into your EAR and LIGHTING IT to somehow magically clean out earwax and toxins and or some such nonsense. Unlike other woo woo scams I’ve covered, this one has absolutely no science associated with its claims. Rather than misrepresenting science, it simply ignores it. And, as usual with this bullshit, its proponents claim it can ~definitely~ cure your cancer.

Spoiler alert – sticking a lit candle into your ear canal will NOT cure any type of cancer.

As usual, no links to sites that actually support this practice, but the “practice” goes as follows: (1) get a fabric cone soaked in wax or paraffin (blessing by a fake, culturally appropriating “shaman” optional); (2) cut a hole in the bottom of a paper plate or tin pan and stick the side you don’t light through the hole – this will keep wax and ash from falling on your face, because safety first (*snort*); (3) lie on your side, stick the end of the candle you don’t light in your ear canal, and get a friend to light the candle; (4) relax while you make like a human candle holder for about 15 minutes then repeat with the other ear.

Why would anyone do this? The “theory” is that the burning candle creates a gentle suction that pulls earwax and gross toxins out of your ear. Alternatively, the low heat from the burning candle is thought to melt earwax and allow it to fall out of the ear canal naturally after a few days. Some even claim you can open the candle and see all of the disgusting material sucked out of your ear, kind of like viewing (in horror and fascination) what peel-off face masks pull out of your pores.

Trust me, what came out of my face that day was NOT pretty, but my skin did feel smoother after…

Other wild claims about the supposed benefits of ear candling (also called ear or auricular coning, thermal/thermo-auricular therapy, candle/coning therapy) include:

removing wax, bacteria, and other debris from the ear canal
treating sinus infections
improving hearing or reversing hearing loss
relieving sore throats
treating colds and flus
relieving headaches and migraines
improving mental clarity
purifying the blood
improving lymphatic circulation
clearing the eyes and improving vision
reducing pain related to jaw aches and temporomandibular disorders
reducing tension and stress
reducing vertigo

Not only are there no studies to substantiate any of these benefits, the FDA has been warning the public against this dangerous practice, with risks including:

starting a fire
burns to the face, ear canal, eardrum, and middle ear
injury to the ear from dripping wax
ears plugged by candle wax
puncture of the eardrum
delay in seeking needed medical care for underlying conditions such as sinus and ear infections, hearing loss, cancer, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. (TMJ disorders often cause headache and painful sensations in the area of the ear, jaw, and face).

Bottom line: if you are bothered by what you believe is excess earwax, sinus and ear infections, TMJ, or other ailments, see a healthcare provider. Sticking a candle in your ear is not a solution, and, quite frankly, it’s a really stupid and dangerous thing to do. Stick to using candles for mood lighting and ambiance.

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