Lightning strike channelled through his head

Doctors at Vancouver General Hospital said a 37-year-old jogger wearing an iPod was burned on his chest, neck and face after the man and a nearby tree were struck by lightning in 2005. The burns traced the path of the earphones, they said.


The man, a Vancouver dentist, suffered ruptured eardrums and the dislocation of the tiny bones in his middle ears, the doctors wrote in a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine.


The man’s jawbone broke in four places and both jaw joints were dislocated, probably because the electric current made his jaw muscles contract violently.


The metal in the earphones helped channel the current and cause the injuries, Eric Heffernan, Dr. Peter Munk and Dr. Luck Louis wrote in their letter.


“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,” they said.

Heffernan said it’s not just iPod headphones that pose a risk. “I think that this has the potential to occur with any sort of headphones.”

Two years later, more than half the patient’s hearing is gone and he cannot hear high frequency sounds, even with hearing aids.

Not too common

  • It is estimated that a person’s odds of being struck by lightning are 1 in 5,000.

  • About 10 per cent of those who are struck die.