20 most worthless pieces of junk: #11 -- Ear candles
My wife is adventurous and curious, so when she first learned of ear candling she wasted no time in trying it out. We still laugh today about the evening that she and some of her friends spent, heads resting on their sides on our kitchen counter, with lit candles in their ears.
Ear candling is an old-timey process that supposedly cleans out one's ear canal. It works this way: a hollow tapered candle about the diameter of a child's pencil is lit on the wide end. The narrow end is then lowered into the ear canal. In theory, the updraft from the flame creates a partial vacuum within the candle, drawing all of the ear gunk from the ear canal into the candle's hollow center.
Over the course of 15 minutes or so, the victim hears snapping and popping, sounds that resemble the feasting of a hoard of locusts. When the candle is removed at the end of this time and cut open, it usually reveals a pocket of gummy stuff that has formed inside, stuff which looks remarkably like ear wax.
However, a study by the Spokane Ear, Nose and Throat Clinic confirmed what other researchers had found; the candling does not produce a pocket of low air pressure and is ineffective in sucking out ear wax. The gunk found inside is a combination of candle wax and soot.
The dangers of this practice are, I would think, obvious-- open flame combined with the organ through which you hear the world = nothing good. I have to admit, though, that watching my friends try it was a memorable and hilarious experience.