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Canadian iPod user struck by lightning

Burns, ruptured eardrums, broken jaw

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A 37-year-old Canadian jogger suffered "multiple injuries to his head" after ill-advisedly standing under a tree during a thunderstorm while listening to his iPod, the Vancouver Sun reports.

The unnamed victim, reportedly an active church musician and enjoying "religious music" at the time of the incident, was struck by lightning near Vancouver in June 2005. The impressive list of injuries he suffered has just been published in the New England Journal of Medicine, and includes burns tracing a pattern from his chest, where he was packing his iPod, to his ears - following the path of the device's earphone cables.

To add injury to injury, the jolt also ruptured his eardrums, dislocated the bones in his middle ear, broke his jaw in four places and dislocated it for good measure. He suffered around 50 per cent permanent hearing loss.

Vancouver General Hospital radiologist Dr. Eric Heffernan, who co-authored the report, explained: "Most people hit by lightning get away with minor burns. It's because skin is highly resistent and stops electricity from entering the body. It's called the flashover effect - although it can stop your heart and kill you.

"But in this case, the victim had earphones on and had been sweating from jogging so this was a case of disrupted flashover and the earphones transmitted the electrical current into his head. It's the first time we've had a recorded case of such an incident involving a person wearing headphones and we think the public should be warned."

This is not the first report of iPod lightning strike. Back in 2006, Colorado teen Jason Bunch copped some megavolts while listening to Metallica, but he was possibly saved by the earphone cables which "directed the current quickly away from his chest and, crucially, his heart".

It's not just iPods which can get you unwanted attention from the heavens. In 2005, a 15-year-old British girl was struck by lightning in London park while chatting or her mobile. She suffered a burst eardrum and cardiac arrest and a year later still had "severe physical difficulties as well as brain damage which has led to emotional and cognitive problems". ®

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