Sweigart Report: “Hopi” Ear Candles | Vol. 3 / No. 45.1

Don’t buy this | Photo: Mike Knell, CC BY-SA 2.0

Things you never think you’re going to have to write: Please, do not get your ears “candled.”

That’s such a patently bizarre thing to say it almost seems to defy explanation. But what it refers to is the process of taking a hollow “candle” — a fabric tube dipped in beeswax — sticking it in your ear, and setting it on fire. The process allegedly removes excess ear was from your ears, which can be a problem if you have a blockage. I use the term allegedly because it’s never been demonstrated to actually do anything useful. According to one study in Canadian Family Physician,”its claimed mechanism of action has not been verified, no positive clinical effect has been reliably recorded, and it is associated with considerable risk” including the deposition of beeswax into the ear, causing a clog. The authors conclude that “no evidence suggests that ear candling is an effective treatment for any condition.”

The gunk from inside the cut-open used “candles” is from the candles themselves, not your ear. They don’t make your ears any cleaner. They do nothing but make your wallet lighter.

Also, despite being attributed to the Hopi Native American Nation, there is no evidence of any real connection between the people and the alternative practice.

If you’re having trouble hearing and you suspect an earwax blockage, go see a doctor. She’ll likely squirt you in the ear with water or a softening agent. DON’T stick things in your ear yourself, you’ll only make it worse.

Happy Monday, everyone.


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Richard Ford Burley is a human, writer, and doctoral candidate at Boston College, as well as an editor at Ledger, the first academic journal devoted to Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. In his spare time he writes about science, skepticism, feminism, and futurism here at This Week In Tomorrow.