Thursday March 4, 2004
Â· Time for some more home science experiments. Robin Sidgwick sends in the catalogue for Ragdale Hall health hydro, which includes the fabulously theatrical “ear candling”: the idea is that a hollow tube of wax invented by Hopi indians is inserted into your ear and lit, in order to suck out any impurities. After the treatment, the candle is triumphantly opened, and shown to be full of orange goo. It’s excellent for “excess wax in the ears, sinusitis, or general blocked sinuses… A must for anyone who hates the syringe!” After an argument at a party about how sceptical I always am, I’ve got a Hopi ear candle right here. Time for a Johnny Ball moment. Get an ear candle. Wave it over an ashtray or some carpet fluff as I am now doing: nothing so far… A paper published in the medical journal Laryngoscope used rather expensive tympanometry and found that ear candles exert no suction. The researchers also found no reduction in the amount of wax after a programme of ear candling. Although, if you’re getting bored of all these negative findings, they did ask 122 colleagues, and collected 21 cases of serious injury from burning wax falling on to the ear drum. If you find, while having your ear candled, that you experience a sudden loss of hearing, and agony followed by bleeding: that’ll be the deafening sound of your own painful credulity.
Â· But numerous ear candle manufacturers, such as Biosun, are proud to tell you that their product conforms to EC directive 93/42 and bears the CE mark. Sounds good. EC directive 93/42 certification, routinely dragged out by pseudoscientists, for a Class I medical device (am I the most boring man you know?) is a matter of filling out a little form, where you say you think it’s probably safe. “The devices must be designed and manufactured in such a way that, when used under the conditions and for the purposes intended, they will not compromise the clinical condition or the safety of patients.” Quite.
Â· But I wouldn’t want you to think I’m uniformly sceptical. If you go to the website buttcandle.com you’ll find something that really does work, accompanied by numerous lovingly hand-tooled illustrations of hollow candles gently drawing toxins out through the rectums of happy customers. Oh yes. The only reported danger is of the pressures created by the buttcandle drawing haemorrhoids into the hollow channel of the candle, leading them to be tangled up in the hot wax. It’s got to be better than going deaf.