Is ear candling — the practice of inserting a lit, hollow candle in your ear to remove earwax — a safe, practical way to get the job done? If you have a burning desire to discover the truth, listen on!
Welcome to Skeptical Sunday, a special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show where Jordan and fact-checker, comedian, and podcast host David C. Smalley break down a topic that you may have never thought about, open things up, and debunk common misconceptions.
On This Week’s Skeptical Sunday, We Discuss:
- Where did the practice of ear candling originate? It’s got to come from a noble, ancient, shamanic tradition and not some hippies out to make a buck, right?
- Ear candling is a thriving industry that rakes in about $1.2 million a year.
- Are there risks to placing a hollow, burning candle in your living human ear canal?
- In spite of any of its potential dangers, at least ear candling gets rid of excess earwax and other debris like it’s supposed to, right?
- If ear candling is so hazardous to your health, the FDA or some governmental agency is on the case to have it banned, right? Right?
- Connect with Jordan on Twitter, on Instagram, and on YouTube. If you have something you’d like us to tackle here on Skeptical Sunday, drop Jordan a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know!
- Connect with David at his website, on Twitter, on Instagram, on TikTok, and on YouTube, and make sure to check out The David C. Smalley Podcast here or wherever you enjoy listening to fine podcasts! If you like to get out of your house and catch live comedy, keep an eye on David’s tour dates here and text David directly at (424) 306-0798 for tickets when he comes to your town!
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Please Scroll Down for Featured Resources and Transcript!
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This Episode Is Sponsored By:
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Miss our conversation with behavioral expert Thomas Erikson? Catch up with episode 465: Thomas Erikson | How to Protect Yourself from Psychopaths here!
Resources from This Episode:
- Ear Candling Has Taken Over TikTok — But Is It Safe? | Shape
- Can Ear Candling Remove Earwax Safely? | Verywell Health
- Microsuction for Earwax Removal: Benefits and Side Effects | Healthline
- We Used An Earwax Cleaning Camera For The First Time | BuzzFeedVideo
- FDA Takes a Stand Against Ear Candling — 6 Years Too Late | CBS News
- Ear, Nose & Throat Doctors | Pinnacle ENT
- The Dangers of Ear Candling | North Alabama ENT Associates Blog
- Where There’s Smoke There’s Fire — Ear Candling in a 4-Year-Old Girl | New Zealand Medical Journal
- Ear Candles: A Triumph of Ignorance over Science (10 Years Later) | Edzard Ernst
- I Got Years Of Ear Wax Removed Holistically | Refinery29
- The Weird History of Psychic Surgery in the Philippines | Esquire
- The Ugly Truth Behind Ear Candling | Focus
- Does Ear Candling Really Work? We Found Out! | The SASS with Susan and Sharzad
- No Hearing for Ear Candle Case Against FDA, Court Says | MedPage Today
- Are Ear Wax Removal Kits Safe? | Consumer Reports
653: Ear Candling | Skeptical Sunday
[00:00:00] Jordan Harbinger: Welcome to the show. I'm Jordan Harbinger, and this is Skeptical Sunday. A special edition of The Jordan Harbinger Show, where fact-checker and comedian David C. Smalley and me, we break down a topic that you might've never thought about. Open things up, debunk common misconceptions, you get the idea — topics such as why the Olympics are basically a sham? Why expiration dates are nonsense? Why tipping makes no sense? Why people are putting ear candles in and lighting them on fire?
[00:00:28] Normally, on The Jordan Harbinger Show, we decode the stories, secrets, and skills of the world's most fascinating people and we turn their wisdom into practical advice that you can use to impact your own life and those around you. We do long-form interviews and conversations with a variety of amazing folks from spies to CEOs, athletes, authors, thinkers, and performers.
[00:00:46] If you're new to the show, or you're looking for a handy way to tell your friends about it, I do suggest our starter packs. These are collections of our favorite episodes, organized by topic to help new listeners get a taste of everything we do here on the show — topics like disinformation and cyber warfare, negotiation, communication, persuasion, influence, China and North Korea, technology and futurism, and more. Just visit jordanharbinger.com or take a look in your Spotify app to get started.
[00:01:12] Today, on this edition of Skeptical Sunday, ear candles. You've heard a lot about these from your grandma and maybe even the crazy lady down the street, or maybe you are the crazy lady down the street. Why are otherwise intelligent people putting candles in their ears and lighting them on fire? Is there something to this or is this just a great way to burn your house down? Do you want to find out? Lay back, pop a flaming hot stick of wax in one of the most sensitive parts of your body, ideally right next to your eyes and use your other ear to listen to what we've got to say about ear candling on this episode of Skeptical Sunday.
[00:01:45] Misinformation comes in many forms, phrases like fake news and fact-check are becoming pretty commonplace. I mean, they have been for the last few years, people are even afraid to trust fact-checkers because well, everybody has an agenda. So who can we trust and how do we know that we can trust them? Now, we have our very own resident fact-checker, he's a skeptic comedian, who's hosted his own fact-checking show for 12 years, David C. Smalley.
[00:02:10] By the way, man. Thanks for coming on. You're an underrated interviewer if I can say that, or is that insulting? I don't even know.
[00:02:16] David C. Smalley: No, no, I appreciate, I think I'm underrated at everything I do because I find myself amazing. No, I appreciate that, actually. Thank you for that, man. I enjoyed the organic conversation process. So maybe, that's where you're picking up on that.
[00:02:28] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah. And also you get into things where I'm like, you're just asking to get canceled or have crazy religious wingnuts that are extreme alt-right to hunt you down somewhere.
[00:02:38] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:02:38] Jordan Harbinger: And I'm sure, actually that must have happened — that's a different story for another time, but you take on conspiracies, supernatural claims, even food drug, medical industries and — I'm excited.
[00:02:49] David C. Smalley: Yeah, no, I'm so grateful that we're doing this, man, because I think more people need to not only just hear the information, but what I want to do is inspire people to be critical thinkers. And I want to have a good time while we're doing it. I mean, just about every episode I put out, I get people on one side calling me a maniac or an idiot or a moron. People on the other side saying the exact same thing for the opposite reasons. And then, this group of people going, "I'm having a hard time figuring out where you stand on this. You just provided a lot of info." I'm like, "How can I be hated on both sides and draw confusion."
[00:03:19] Jordan Harbinger: And also confusing.
[00:03:20] David C. Smalley: Yeah, but I want people to just be inspired to do their own fact-checking and critical thinking. I just want that. That's ultimately what the show's about.
[00:03:27] Jordan Harbinger: Well, good. Well, I'm excited. This is a kind of a new segment we're testing and we'll see how it goes. If the people hate you, eh, there won't be too many more days, but yeah, if they like it and we can make a bunch.
[00:03:37] David C. Smalley: Yeah, absolutely.
[00:03:37] Jordan Harbinger: So what do you have for us today?
[00:03:39] David C. Smalley: Okay. So you may have seen these videos, making the rounds on social media, of people using a candle to remove earwax. Have you seen this?
[00:03:47] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. Yes. I have seen that. So it's like an ear cleaning, but with — and my mom suggested this to me when I was little. So this wasn't my first exposure to it. It's like a candle that you stick in your ear and I never understood how or why it would work. And I still don't understand how or why it could possibly work, and my guess is that it doesn't actually work.
[00:04:08] David C. Smalley: Well, I probably wouldn't be talking about it if it did.
[00:04:10] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:04:11] David C. Smalley: But yeah, there's, there's a video right now making the rounds on TikTok. That's got like four million views of someone doing this and this guy is, it kind of looks like clinic-y, you know, he kind of has like scrubs on. He's lighting the candle. He puts it in this woman's ear and then they cut it open and they show this like big black worm-looking thing that's sucked out over a year after she's been doing the candles burning for like 10 minutes or so. And it's disgusting and they're ripping it open. They're scraping earwax out of this candle. Everybody's freaking out. It gets all these views and then people go out and buy this thing and, you know, people are making tons of money on it. So I'm not sure if that's the video you saw or if you've just seen clips all over, but there's one huge one making the rounds right now.
[00:04:51] Jordan Harbinger: I've seen some version of this for years because I keep Googling it. Whenever my ears are clogged, you know, you're looking for like any solution, probably every other winner, right? And I'm like, what? There's not that much wax in my ear. How does this person hear anything? How do they function? How can they possibly have a sense of balance if there's this like big black worm looking thing, just stuck in her ear. And also the physics don't make sense. Like that's my biggest gripe is the physics make no sense. The gravity, hello? So I don't get that.
[00:05:19] David C. Smalley: And the suction of this flame. And I'll get into that because I think the general idea is that you put this candle in your ear and you light it. And whatever suction is caused by a flame, you know, like pulling things in or through the airflow. It's supposed to pull out bacteria and things like that.
[00:05:34] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:34] David C. Smalley: Now, let me just stop right now just for your safety and everyone else's safety. I'm not a doctor. And so nothing I say should be considered medical advice. And saying that, you know, you shouldn't listen to a comedian podcaster for medical advice, it's like the 2022 version of do not eat packaging. Okay. Talk to your own doctor if you have questions about this, but I am armed with common sense.
[00:05:57] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:05:57] David C. Smalley: So, you know, get ready for that. There's lots of ways to clean your ears. You know, there's a little vacuum thing that people use.
[00:06:03] Jordan Harbinger: That sounds also painful/dangerous.
[00:06:06] David C. Smalley: You know, side note, I personally have one of those. It's not a vacuum. It looks like a little gun.
[00:06:10] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:06:10] David C. Smalley: And you just put it in and you turn it on. It's very light, you hear a little buzz and it just is very light. And then you can just kind of scrape around the insides. It's very, very soft. It's got a little rubber tip on it and it works well for me. And I've asked my doctor and like, yeah, that's fine. I'm a who only in my left ear, I've got like this really stickier wax and the other sides, there's no problem. So anytime, I swim, if I don't put an earplug in my left ear, I get swimmer's ear every single time.
[00:06:35] Jordan Harbinger: Gross.
[00:06:36] David C. Smalley: So I just will go swimming and not put my head in the water or I shove an earplug in. So I've actually had a lot of talks with doctors about my earwax and what I'm allowed to use.
[00:06:44] Jordan Harbinger: No wonder you're so passionate and you're like, "I can't wait to talk about earwax if that's relevant," instead of just pissing off my first day. Like why don't these Tinder Dallas call me back?
[00:06:55] David C. Smalley: Exactly. So there's actually a brand new thing where you can like Bluetooth this little camera thing, that's like a suction device or a grabbing device—
[00:07:03] Jordan Harbinger: And you can look in there.
[00:07:04] David C. Smalley: —to your phone. Like you can be entertained by disgusting images of what's going on inside your ear while you're doing it. And from what I've seen, these things are mostly safe.
[00:07:13] Jordan Harbinger: But lighting fire on your ear, like going back to ear candling where the physics make no sense. That doesn't sound safe at all. You're sticking something that's on fire right next to your head inside your ear. What?
[00:07:26] David C. Smalley: Yeah. If it sounds dangerous, it's because it is this. It's a big wave in the alternative medicine scene right now. And it wouldn't be a thing that people just use the Google. I mean, in any airflow that's generated by that is not going to undo millions of years of sticky evolution that is locking this thing inside your head.
[00:07:43] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:07:43] David C. Smalley: So it's going to be too heavy to pull any wax out of your ear. But there are tons of people who have been injured by this.
[00:07:51] Jordan Harbinger: First of all, let's back up. Whose idea was this? Where did this originate? Do we know? Because a lot of this nonsense stuff has roots either a couple of hundred years ago as wives tales, you know, like folktales or it comes from some alternative medicine, but then it just gets bastardized by the time it gets to like Minnesota.
[00:08:10] David C. Smalley: Yeah, absolutely. And that's actually interesting part of this. The people who push this as therapy are either lying about where this came from, or they were given misinformation and they just pass it on because they trust their guru teacher or whatever.
[00:08:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:08:24] David C. Smalley: But they actually claim that it was an ancient healing tradition from the Hopi Indian tribe. And so when doing my research, I found that CBS News actually reached out to Vanessa Charles, who was the public relations director or officer of the Hopi Indian Council in Arizona. And she said, and I quote, "Ear candling is not, and has not ever been a practice conducted by the Hopi tribe or the Hopi people." So honestly, it was probably, you know, invented by some Reiki guru named Twilight in 2004, for all we know. It's not connected with an ancient healing tradition at all, as far as we can tell.
[00:08:58] Jordan Harbinger: That's so funny. It reminds me of a lot of this stuff that supposedly comes from India and like you'll go do core power yoga because you want to stretch. They're like, "You know, this comes from dah, dah, dah," and you'll talk to somebody who's from that part of India. And they're like, "Definitely this type of crystal healing thing, that's being pushed by some franchise owner at CorePower Yoga is not from India. We don't even have this, never heard of this."
[00:09:19] David C. Smalley: It's kind of the same feeling most Americans get when they find out Panda Express isn't Chinese.
[00:09:23] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.
[00:09:25] David C. Smalley: Same thing.
[00:09:25] Jordan Harbinger: They try and make things more mystical. I think it's called Orientalism, right? Where you sort of fetishize the culture of this foreign culture and be like, "Oh yeah, Kung Fu is mysterious," but really it's just kind of like diet racism in a way, like white racism where you're like, and it just causes misconceptions like this.
[00:09:42] And I can imagine the Hopi Indians are like, "Don't blame us if you burn your hair or your face, because we did not invent this. This is not us."
[00:09:51] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:09:51] Jordan Harbinger: I guess you don't use just any type of candle. Like you don't throw like a birthday candle in your ear.
[00:09:56] David C. Smalley: Look, these people who were believing this, they just might be. They might be shoving them up their nose to clear their sinuses for all I know.
[00:10:02] Jordan Harbinger: That might work actually, who knows, definitely will.
[00:10:05] David C. Smalley: Just to set your whole nose on fire, you might get rid of a lot of problems and create a whole bunch more. But there is a specific candle that these charlatans are using. It's actually a 10-inch tapered candle and it's hollowed out. So it's a special ear candle.
[00:10:21] Jordan Harbinger: And it happens to be more expensive by a lot.
[00:10:23] David C. Smalley: Way more, way more. It's also very large.
[00:10:25] Jordan Harbinger: Medical candle.
[00:10:26] David C. Smalley: Yeah. Yeah. Well, that's an interesting piece of this too, that we'll get into in a second, but basically they're not just making money by doing the procedure if you go somewhere to have it done. But they're also making tons of money off of manufacturing, producing and selling these things. So that people can sort of disguise these bad ideas as freedom. You know, if you want to buy something and do something dumb with it. You can buy 16 cheeseburgers and eat them all in one sitting. No one's going to arrest you for it.
[00:10:51] Jordan Harbinger: Right.
[00:10:52] David C. Smalley: You know what I mean? So you have the freedom to make really bad decisions and that's what this is.
[00:10:56] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So a manufacturer of kind of BS stuff like sugar pills, there's a lot of sugar pills that you can buy and people go, "Oh, it's really good for breaking your fever because after you take it, your fever breaks." And I'm like, "Well, yeah, that happens with everybody who's got a fever unless they die from that," right?
[00:11:11] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:11:11] Jordan Harbinger: So theoretically, this medicine looks like it works so they can manufacture these. And then when people go, "Hey, this doesn't work." They go, "Look, we just make these for people who want to do this kind of therapy. We don't say that this therapy actually works," which is a pretty safe way to make something that's dangerous and stupid, but then absolve yourself of all responsible.
[00:11:31] David C. Smalley: Yeah, you can just stamp for entertainment use only on it.
[00:11:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. We're making no medical claims here. Yeah, exactly.
[00:11:36] David C. Smalley: Right. But the problem is people are actually doing this in the clinics. Like there are people that are actually performing this, right? They're not only just doing it by themselves.
[00:11:44] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So you can also go to that clinic and get crystal healing or your tarot cards read or something probably too.
[00:11:50] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:11:50] Jordan Harbinger: And I don't want to crap on tarot. Some people like it as a hobby, but if you think you're seeing the future, then that's where we break.
[00:11:56] David C. Smalley: Right. I mean, look, if you want to do it for me and I've done it before and it's fun, sometimes.
[00:12:00] Jordan Harbinger: Ear candling or tarot.
[00:12:01] David C. Smalley: No, tarot, only the tarot. Yeah. And so I get it. It can be fun. And you could talk to a psychic just to see what the. The problem comes when you actually try to use these things to solve real-life issues.
[00:12:12] Jordan Harbinger: Sure.
[00:12:13] David C. Smalley: Because not only is this pseudoscience, this ear candling is pseudoscience, with no evidence that it works, people are seriously getting injured, like seriously. A lot of times the most common reports are burning embers and ash falling down the hollow tube back into the person's ear.
[00:12:30] Jordan Harbinger: That seems like the first and most obvious problem that would happen. It's a funnel-shaped candle that goes in your ear. Oh yeah, so a burning part of that fell down the tapered part into my ear. Ah, how did we not think of that?
[00:12:43] David C. Smalley: Yeah, here's the fun part about it. Most people like poke a hole in a plate or put tinfoil or something to protect themselves. But then they have this hollow tube on fire directly inside the ear canal .
[00:12:54] Jordan Harbinger: Funnel burning embers into your ear. That would normally not—
[00:12:57] David C. Smalley: Exactly.
[00:12:57] Jordan Harbinger: They would miss safely. Now, they slide right into your ear canal.
[00:13:01] David C. Smalley: Exactly. It's a direct link but seriously though, there are people who have burning, they have scars, they have permanent hearing damage or hearing loss.
[00:13:10] Jordan Harbinger: Oh man.
[00:13:11] David C. Smalley: I want your, your viewers and listeners to go to pentadocs.com to look this stuff up. P-E-N-T-A-docs.com, pentadocs.com. It's the website for Pinnacle Ear, Nose, and Throat Doctors. They have a whole section on how ear candling claims to treat tinnitus, TMD, swimmer's ear, sinus infections, and even Meniere's disease. And they explained clearly it does not work. And they even cite reports from the FDA, which found burns to the face, eardrum, ear canal and middle ear, as well as — this is something I didn't think about — melted, dripping, hot wax, pouring back into the ear canal and clogging the ear and then drying and sticking itself causing hearing loss.
[00:13:51] Jordan Harbinger: Oh my god. I didn't even think about that, but that is sweet irony, right? Because you're trying to clean your ears so you can hear better and clear everything up and it's like, now you just have a hardened wax in your ear, deep in there that you have to then have professionally cleaned out, I would imagine, by an audiologist or a doctor.
[00:14:07] David C. Smalley: There are even FDA reports of punctured eardrums from this.
[00:14:10] Jordan Harbinger: Wow.
[00:14:11] David C. Smalley: No one sits down and goes, "Oh, I'm going to puncture my eardrum today." So people out there thinking, "I could do it and not hurt myself." That's what everybody thinks that starts this process. There's a man named Eric Mann, who's the clinical deputy director of the FDA's division on medical devices. I have a quote from him here. He says, "The FDA believes there is no valid scientific evidence for any medical benefit from the use of ear candles," whenever he was asked specifically about them. On top of that, the National Institute of Health released a clinical report on PubMed of a four-year-old girl—
[00:14:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh no.
[00:14:41] David C. Smalley: —with white deposits on her eardrum.
[00:14:43] Jordan Harbinger: White deposits like wax deposits. Oh man.
[00:14:46] David C. Smalley: The report says white deposits. So now, it goes from, you know, a couple of drunk guys in college doing this for a party bet to being really serious if parents are putting these things in their kid's ears and lighting them on fire and then not having to be rushed to the ER, because the kid has some kind of earwax or a punctured eardrum or white deposits of candling on the actual eardrum itself.
[00:15:09] Jordan Harbinger: So don't stick burning torches of fire into your ear.
[00:15:12] David C. Smalley: I mean, if you want to, you can. I recommend you don't but I'm not a doctor.
[00:15:16] Jordan Harbinger: That's true.
[00:15:16] David C. Smalley: I'm not a doctor.
[00:15:17] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah. Are you a doctor? Can you really give me advice? I'm trusting TikTokers, not some comedian who's also on TikTok. Okay.
[00:15:24] David C. Smalley: There you go. I mean, even that the National Institute of Health also released an article and it's called Ear Candles: A Triumph of Ignorance over Science. In there, they say that a critical assessment of the evidence shows that its mode of action is implausible, which is what we were talking about a moment ago. The whole concept of it, pulling earwax out of your ear upwards to defy gravity based on this little flame. It's just ridiculous. And it says, "It's implausible and demonstrably wrong. There is no data to suggest that it is effective for any condition. Furthermore, ear candles have been associated with ear injuries and the inescapable conclusion is that ear candles do more harm than good. Their use should be discouraged."
[00:16:06] So please don't try this at home. There are safer options, like a little vacuums and stuff. So do that or talk to your doctor instead.
[00:16:16] Jordan Harbinger: You're listening to Skeptical Sunday on the Jordan harbinger. We'll be right back.
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[00:18:42] Now, for the rest of Skeptical Sunday.
[00:18:46] Yeah. I can imagine, even if you had really good instructions on how to use an ear candle, that it would not work well for you. Like this is one of those things where it's bound to go wrong, just purely based on the fact that it's stupid to stick a flaming torch funnel in your ear.
[00:19:01] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, even if it comes with instructions or you go somewhere to have it done, it's just too damn dangerous and there's zero evidence of it actually ever working. And by the way, this is not just talking about injuries to you, personally. I found a video by a woman named Angela Williams from 2019. She tried to ear candling. She bought a kit online. She got her instructions. She set her carpet on fire.
[00:19:25] Jordan Harbinger: Oh.
[00:19:26] David C. Smalley: So she posted a video about it on YouTube. Don't worry though, Jordan, she asks for prayers. So I'm assuming she's going to be fine.
[00:19:32] Jordan Harbinger: It's going to sort itself out, yeah, at that point.
[00:19:33] David C. Smalley: It's going to sort itself out. It's going to be fine.
[00:19:35] Jordan Harbinger: The DIY element of this makes it even more dangerous than going to a clinic because at least if it happens there, you've lit their carpet on fire and you can just go home after that.
[00:19:43] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:19:43] Jordan Harbinger: And theoretically, then they're also paying attention for burning embers going down that your funnel, and maybe they can try to do something about it. But again, since it's complete nonsense, I probably shouldn't also assume that they're being really safe and taking every precaution with their nonsense. And I think it's funny that in these videos that they show online, some of the stuff that you shared for prep here, and we'll link in the show notes, that there's going to be somebody in a lab coat. Because yeah, you know, "I got to do this seriously, I need to be in a clean room. I need to have a lab coat on." It's just like the more accoutrements of actual medicine that these people use, I find that a lot of times, the more ridiculous it is. Like if I go to the doctor, of course, he's got a lab coat on, but also when I go to get like a regular massage, they don't. But if I go to get like a healing massage, every single person there is in scrubs. And I'm like, "Are you doing surgery in the back of this place or what? And they're selling like multi-level marketing acai berry oil and juice in the front of the place.
[00:20:36] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:20:36] Jordan Harbinger: And I'm like, it's almost like you have to make up for your lack of science by looking more scientific. Like you need a stethoscope and a bunch of instruments on the wall to be like, "Hey, this isn't just some crap we learned on YouTube. This is real."
[00:20:47] David C. Smalley: Yeah. You're like, I'm getting a massage. Why is there a skeleton in the corner of the room? This is bizarre.
[00:20:52] Jordan Harbinger: The bones that you have in your body. I know anatomy, bend over — I mean, lay on the table.
[00:20:59] David C. Smalley: I found a lady who's been doing this for at least 13 years. And if people want to look her up, I'll give the name. I don't know if you want to believe this or not. Her name is Polina Bowler.
[00:21:08] Jordan Harbinger: Okay. We can link to it in the show notes. Look, she's publicly offering this. We're not outing her. She probably loves the free advertising.
[00:21:14] David C. Smalley: Right, right, right. She's the owner and head acupuncturist — so there's a red flag — at East Meets West Holistic Center. She's got this video with 4.5 million views, which is why I'm talking about it because it's that significant. And the video's called, "I got years of wax removed holistically," and it shows her treating a patient and anybody can pull that video and watch it. She literally says, and this is a quote from her in the video, quote, "Ear candling is a bit of a Mr. Nobody really knows how it works. Scientifically, it doesn't make sense," end quote.
[00:21:49] Jordan Harbinger: I mean, I agree with you. It is a bit of a mystery. Nobody really knows how it works because technically and you're right. Nobody knows how it works because it doesn't work. Not because we can't figure it out and scientifically, it doesn't make any sense. So yeah, I 100-percent agree with that or at least 66-percent agree with this statement. It's not really a mystery. Mystery solved, It's a scam.
[00:22:09] David C. Smalley: Right. And by the way, she's still doing it right now. She continues to do it in the video even saying scientifically, it doesn't make sense. And by the way, she's based here in LA.
[00:22:18] Jordan Harbinger: Of course.
[00:22:18] David C. Smalley: If you and I want to scrounge up, if you want to scrounge up 85 bucks and meet me there, we can go risk our lives for science. You want to try this out? You know, for the viewers?
[00:22:25] Jordan Harbinger: I don't know. I mean, it sounds like a great way for me to — I kind of need my hearing in this line of work. So I'm going to pass on shoving a flame torch in my ear on that one.
[00:22:33] What do you make of the results? And I put results in air quotes, but they show these videos of earwax in the candle. It really does look like a really gross, like dark red or black worm thing that comes out of a candle that supposedly comes out of your ear. And it reminds me of — have you ever seen those sham surgeries where like someone's digging in your abdomen. They're supposedly pulling out cancer, but it's clearly just like chicken guts and blood.
[00:22:56] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:22:57] Jordan Harbinger: It's like the same thing. It's like, "Look at all the wax that was in your ear," or, "Look at all these cancerous tumors I pulled out of your abdomen." It's just total nonsense. It's like the same thing, but from your ears.
[00:23:06] David C. Smalley: Yeah, my answer is incredibly disappointing. The black worm thing is completely fake. They either load that thing into the candle before they light it. There have been people who will stick this thing down to the candle and they'll put it really low in the bottom of the candle. And then they'll set the top empty part on fire. And then once it burns down, they stop and take it out. Then they rip it open and go, "Look what it pulled out of your ear." They do that. Or if they're doing a TikTok video or YouTube video, they'll switch it, you know, later. And they'll do a camera cut just to say, "Look what we pulled out of your ear." But there's also this actual wax that looks like it's coming out of your ear.
[00:23:41] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:23:41] David C. Smalley: If people watch that video, I just referenced, she scrapes actual like burnt wax out of the—
[00:23:47] Jordan Harbinger: The candle.
[00:23:48] David C. Smalley: The candle after the fact, yeah. And you can see that in the video, it even shows it again in slow motion. And you can hear the head acupuncturist say, "That came out of your left ear." Like it's so believable to these folks and it's so real. It definitely did not. And crap like that would not come out of your ear no matter how long it's been since your last shower.
[00:24:06] Dr. Cher Zhao, I have to credit on this, she's a pediatric ENT at Mass Eye and Ear. She did an interview with Focus where she cites a study of experts analyzing the wax that comes out of that. They actually did a full scientific study on it. And what they found is that there is wax that comes out of it. They cut them open and they're scraping this wax out. 100 percent of the wax that was tested by these experts. 0 percent of it contained human earwax.
[00:24:33] Jordan Harbinger: Well, yeah, it's freaking candle wax, right?
[00:24:35] David C. Smalley: Well, beeswax from inside the candle itself.
[00:24:38] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:24:38] David C. Smalley: That does get hot, that does appear to be burned. So it's very convincing to a lot of people. So the black worm is intentionally inserted but the wax-looking stuff comes default in these candles by default. So people are convinced that that's what happened.
[00:24:51] Jordan Harbinger: I guess I already know the answer to this, but I'm going to ask anyway, why would somebody want to fake something that is just so easily debunked or even by common sense?
[00:24:59] David C. Smalley: I think for the same reason, people get divorced — money.
[00:25:02] Jordan Harbinger: Divorced because of money. Okay.
[00:25:03] David C. Smalley: Yeah. yes, divorce. Because look, even if they're not directly selling something. Someone could go, "Hey, I'm just a crystal healer, whatever. I don't make money on it." I mean, you know, even if they're not selling something, they're getting millions of views. They're getting a licensing deal with one of those fell sites because their video went viral or, you know, they're being paid by impressions. They're getting a licensing deal or something like that or they're putting their links of merchandise on their bio. It's all motivated by money and traffic. And unfortunately, people see it, they try it, they hurt themselves all because they don't listen to The Jordan Harbinger podcast on Skeptical Sundays where David C. Smalley comes and debunks this nonsense and then plugs himself for more downloads.
[00:25:38] Jordan Harbinger: Right. Yeah. Let's remember why we're really here to get people to go listen to the David C. Smalley podcast, which we'll also link in the show notes.
[00:25:45] David C. Smalley: Absolutely. But one could also make the argument that some of these people are duped themselves. And this is something that I struggled with on my own podcast. It's hard for me to get angry at these folks, regardless of what they're pushing, because from what I've seen, it appears that most of them believe what they're doing.
[00:26:00] So is it possible that they can dawn white lab coats perform this procedure for years and never even so much as Google this stuff? I mean, who knows? I once had a conversation with an ER doctor or, sorry, she was an ER nurse who told me that I shouldn't swim for an hour after I ate or I would get stomach cramps and drown.
[00:26:18] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:26:18] David C. Smalley: I mean, she is a professional in the medical field, but still thought something that was nonsensical because that's what she was always taught as a kid and never bothered to look it up. I don't know. I guess it's possible that some of these people just don't know any better, but I think most are probably grifters who were looking for people that don't have Internet access.
[00:26:33] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah, I think you're right. I mean, look, if you are confusing, the burnt beeswax that was in the candle and you think it's here, you're confusing it for earwax. That I kind of understand. It's still dumb. I think you should know better, but I understand why that would be confusing.
[00:26:45] But if you're loading a pellet of some nonsense wax expander, whatever thing into your fake candle to trick the person who's on the table, then it's really obvious who the con artist is and who's just really woefully uninformed.
[00:26:59] David C. Smalley: Here's what I've seen it describe as, the idea was we were pranking this one particular woman, who's a friend of mine, right? It's we're going to prank her at home. So we buy the candle, we buy the little worm thing. We burn like a gummy worm or something, shove that into the candle and then we prank her. And what you're filming is the prank, right?
[00:27:18] Jordan Harbinger: Okay.
[00:27:18] David C. Smalley: But then it just gets cut and edited down to a 42-second clip. And then the video blows up and now, there's a bunch of all this misinformation out there and people are going out and buying these things because they think it worked. Like it wasn't a clinician doing the black worm thing. It was just a dude pranking his sister, you know? And then the video goes viral.
[00:27:36] Jordan Harbinger: Right. So they cut the end where he goes, "It's a prank. I loaded this in there." And then it becomes an affiliate video for like, Johnson's ear candles. Not that they make your candles, but if they did.
[00:27:45] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:27:46] Jordan Harbinger: This would be some viral marketing. I've seen a couple of debunks, where some are like, "Hey, this doesn't work that way." But I've also seen other YouTubers get duped by this where they're like, "Oh my god, look at how much wax was in there." And then all the comments are like, "You're an idiot."
[00:28:00] David C. Smalley: Yeah. There's this one YouTube channel called Mixed Makeup, hosted by Susan and Sharzad. And they've got a show on that channel called The SASS and they go do crazy stuff all the time and they had fun with it. Well, they went and did this ear candling thing and showed every step of the way. And sure enough, at the end, the person cuts the candle open, shows all the earwax. They're like, "Eww," they're doing close up. They're freaking out. And they were eviscerated in their own comment section. Like, "This is dumb, you're perpetuating bullsh*t." And they were like flipping out about it. They got tons of hate.
[00:28:31] And so rather than going back and like confronting, you know, the person who did it or whatever, these ladies just bought their own candles and had them shipped and then burned the candles, lit the candles without putting them in the ears. And then at the end, they opened it and had the exact same result.
[00:28:47] Jordan Harbinger: Interesting.
[00:28:47] David C. Smalley: And they put that out and we're like, "Look, we set this on fire. And clearly, that wasn't earwax that came out. We apologize." And everybody's like, "Go back to that place and tell them."
[00:28:55] Jordan Harbinger: Yeah.
[00:28:55] David C. Smalley: And the two ladies were like, "Oh, they have the freedom to do their own business. We don't want to hurt their business." And I'm like, that's where I would absolutely want to do that because clearly, they're making money on it.
[00:29:05] Jordan Harbinger: I disagree with that. Look, I agree. Everyone has the right to a business. This is a con job. They would have had a hell of a video going back and confronting the person on that and saying, "Hey, we lit these. Here's a video of us lighting these without putting it in an ear. Here's the exact same result." And then you see if the person goes, "Oh my god, I've been doing this for years. I can't believe it doesn't work." Or they go, "Get out of my store."
[00:29:23] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:29:24] Jordan Harbinger: "Get out of money, fake medical establishment."
[00:29:26] David C. Smalley: Yep.
[00:29:26] Jordan Harbinger: So yeah, there's a fine line between being respectful to somebody's business and then allowing a scam to continue, especially after you've advertised for that same scam—
[00:29:34] David C. Smalley: Exactly.
[00:29:35] Jordan Harbinger: —unwittingly. So I don't know. I do. A lot of those places are allowed to legally operate. But then again, what are you going to do? Regulate the practice of every single person that claims to do anything it's just impossible.
[00:29:45] David C. Smalley: Well, apparently, they're getting close or at least at one point they were. According to Cohen Healthcare Law in February of 2010, the FDA issued warning letters to three large manufacturers of ear candles, as well as like retailers and outlets and even clinics. These letters were so like threatening and legalistic sounding. These firms were informed, like the FDA had determined that there was no agency approval, meaning there was no agent assigned to approve these things as medical devices. There was no clearance. There was no manufacturing facility registration. There was no device listing. There was no adverse event reporting system in place regarding with ear candles. And the way it was worded, this led sort of people to believe that they were officially illegal.
[00:30:26] Jordan Harbinger: Uh-huh.
[00:30:27] David C. Smalley: And so people stopped carrying them. A lot of the places shut it down for a while around 2010 and it slowed it down quite a bit. They did a good thing. Then this person who calls themselves Doc Harmony, D-O-C, by the way.
[00:30:40] Jordan Harbinger: Oh, D-O-C, right, so not actually doctor. "Hey, I didn't say doctor."
[00:30:45] David C. Smalley: Right.
[00:30:45] Jordan Harbinger: "It's short for something else, doc."
[00:30:47] David C. Smalley: Yeah.
[00:30:47] Jordan Harbinger: It's just a nickname. That's the lab coat of nicknames, right there.
[00:30:53] David C. Smalley: You're right. That's so funny. So Doc Harmony sued the FDA and essentially requested that ear candles not be called medical devices, but rather personal care products. They also claim that they have the bodily autonomy to choose alternative methods of therapy, which it's hard to argue with that when we talk about freedom in the United States. So it ended up being taken all the way to the Supreme Court and Doc Harmony lost but in the loss, it was kind of a win because the ruling stated that Doc Harmony had no case because the FDA had only sent out warnings and threats, but never officially outlawed or banned the use of ear candles.
[00:31:31] So to this day, something happened in that lawsuit that if you go search for ear candling on the FDA website, what it's going to reroute you to is frauds and medical warnings and scams and things like that. But if you find an actual article with a title on and having to do with ear candling on the FDA website, it's probably going to be a dead link. The links are broken. So despite dangers and reported medical issues caused by these candles, apparently the FDA just doesn't think it's worth anyone's time or money to chase this down.
[00:31:58] So, technically right now, it's still legal, but highly discouraged but at the same, just like praying over your child rather than seeking medical attention, you have the rights to do that. You have the religious freedoms to do what you want. But if that child becomes harmed in some way, you will definitely face legal troubles and criminal charges and child endangerment and bodily harm and bodily injury and things like that, and neglect.
[00:32:22] So that's basically what the FDA has said when it comes to this, do this at your own risk. And if people get hurt, we're coming for you. If you stick it in your kid's ear and light it on fire, you have the right to do it. You have the right to buy it. You have the right to film it, but if your kid gets hurt, you know, get ready to face some child endangerment issues, you know, or if you do a prank on someone and they get hurt as a result. I personally think they need to readdress it, but it doesn't appear that we're getting smarter as a species.
[00:32:48] Jordan Harbinger: No, and we have just the Hopi Indian tribe to thank for this terrible — oh wait, sorry, sorry. Never mind, scratch that. Scratch that. Sorry, Hopi Indians scapegoated again.
[00:32:57] Thanks so much, David. I really appreciate having you on. Of course, you can find the David C. Smalley podcast, not only linked in the show notes, but anywhere you listen to podcasts. Thanks so much for coming on, man.
[00:33:06] David C. Smalley: Hey, thanks for having me.
[00:33:08] Jordan Harbinger: If you're looking for another episode of The Jordan Harbinger Show to sink your teeth into, here's a trailer of my interview with Thomas Erickson on how to spot a psychopath.
[00:33:16] Thomas Erikson: Some people tell me do they have to be psychopaths? Couldn't it just be, they are evil? But hey, for me, same thing. They are out there, regardless that we are talking about it or not.
[00:33:29] The stupid psychopath, he would go up to you on the street and says, "Hey, you got a nice watch," and then he will bang you in the head and take to watch. The intelligent psychopath, he will see your beautiful watch and he says, "That's a nice watch." And then he will talk you into giving him the watch. That's a difference.
[00:33:45] All narcissists are not psychopaths, but every psychopath is a narcissist. They think it is their right. They are entitled to act in this way. It is their birthright to use you and me and anybody else. The more you present yourself to the psychopath, the more understanding he has about you and the more dangerous it becomes.
[00:34:07] Love bombing is one of the most dangerous manipulation techniques that we can use. If you haven't experienced, let's say true love, let's call it, and then you think you have it within your reach. You're done.
[00:34:21] I get shivers down my spine. Psychopathy is not an illness. It's a personality disorder. It. At the moment in the woman's womb, actually. You can never change a psychopath. How much value would you put in yourself? How much do you think you deserve in life? Do you deserve a good relationship?
[00:34:47] Jordan Harbinger: For more on how to protect yourself from psychopaths, check out episode 465 with Thomas Erickson on The Jordan Harbinger Show.
[00:34:57] All right. That does it for the second episode of Skeptical Sunday. I would love to hear what you think about these. Many of you did get back to me with positive feedback and some suggestions. Please do keep that coming. As mentioned last week, these are probably not going to be every single week. We'll see what shakes out, of course. Topic suggestions for future episodes of Skeptical Sunday are always welcome. Just email me email@example.com and give me your thoughts.
[00:35:22] A link to the show notes for the episode can be found at jordanharbinger.com. Transcripts are in the show notes. I'm at @jordanharbinger on Twitter and Instagram, or just hit me on LinkedIn. You can find David Smalley at @davidcsmalley on all social media platforms, at davidcsmalley.com, or better yet on his podcast, The David C. Smalley Show. Links to all that in the show notes as well.
[00:35:43] The show is created in association with PodcastOne. My team is Jen harbinger, Jase Sanderson, Robert Fogarty, Ian Baird, Millie Ocampo, Josh Ballard, and Gabriel Mizrahi. Our advice and opinions, they're our own. And I'm a lawyer, but I'm not your lawyer, and I was probably never a good lawyer. So do your own research before implementing anything you hear on the show. Remember, we rise by lifting others, share the show with those you love. If you found this episode useful, please share it with somebody else who needs to hear it, you know, like somebody puts candles in their ears and lights them. In the meantime, do your best to apply what you hear on the show, so you can live what you listen, and we'll see you next time.
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