Reports of iPod listeners suffering serious injuries during electrical storms are occurring more frequently.
While urban legends claim that the electronic devices attract lightning are not true, when lightning does strike it can contact metal objects, such as the metal in iPods; and as we were all supposed to learn in science class, metal does conduct electricity. When lightning makes contact with the metal in iPods it can cause serious burns to the skin and also rupture human eardrums.
A spokeswoman for Apple declined to comment, but iPod packaging contains warnings against using an iPod outdoors when it is raining. Since lightning strikes can occur when a storm is many miles away, lightning safety experts are recommending that at the sound of thunder an iPod user should go indoors immediately.
A jogger in Vancouver, British Columbia received second degree wishbone-shaped chest and neck burns, ruptured both eardrums and was thrown about 8 feet, resulting in a broken jaw after lightning indirectly struck him and traveled through his iPod wires.
According to a recent report in the New England Journal of Medicine the man was listening to his iPod while jogging in a thunderstorm when lightning hit a nearby tree a few feet away and jumped to his body. The electrical current left red burn lines from where the iPod had been strapped to his chest up both sides of his neck. It ruptured both his ear drums, dislocated tiny ear bones that transmit sound waves, and broke his jaw in four places, according to the medical imaging specialist at Vancouver General Hospital.
Even after two years and therapy, the man has less than 50% normal hearing on in both ears and must wear hearing aids. The jogger has no recollection of being struck.
Another incident occurred when a man in Colorado was mowing his grass and listening to his iPod. In this instance it wasn’t even raining and there was a thunder storm some miles away.
Lightning struck a tree, ricocheted and struck the man, rupturing his eardrums, burning the sides of face where the earphone wires were, and extensively seared the area of his skin where the iPod had been in an outside pocket. He still has a hearing loss even after two reconstructive surgeries to repair his ruptured eardrums.
He also has no memory of being struck by lightning and considers himself very lucky to be alive.