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iPod User Gets Struck by iLightning

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A 39-year-old dentist from Vancouver had a shocking experience while he was out jogging and listening to his iPod. Lightning struck a tree next to him, and then jumped over to him, throwing him 8 feet and resulting in second-degree burns on his chest and left leg. There were also a couple of burns exactly where his iPod wires led up his torso, along either side of his neck and face and then into his ears. Did he live to tell the tale?

He survived but was pretty banged up. He had substantial burns on both his ears, both his eardrums were ruptured, his inner ear bones were dislocated and he also had a broken jaw in four places. Here's what the doctors had to say in the New England Journal of Medicine about this case:

Because of the high resistance of skin, the lightning is often conducted over the outside of the body (an effect known as a flashover); however, sweat and metallic objects in contact with the skin can disrupt the flashover, leading to the internal flow of current. Although the use of a device such as an iPod may not increase the chances of being struck by lightning, in this case, the combination of sweat and metal earphones directed the current to, and through, the patient's head.


Doctors managed to patch the guy up with skin grafts, and now, two years after the accident, he has less than 50% of normal hearing on each side, and that's even when he's using hearing aids. He still can't hear high-pitched sounds.

Don't start thinking that iPods attract lightning strikes, though, at least not the way tall objects and trees do. According to Dr. Marianne Cooper of the University of Illinois medical center in Chicago, "It's going to hit where it's going to hit, but once it contacts metal, the metal conducts the electricity." So it just wasn't that dentist's lucky day.


[New England Journal of Medicine and Associated Press]