US Pharm. 2007;32(10):93-94.

The odds of getting hit by lightning under normal conditions during a thunderstorm are very low. However, the risk of more serious injury may be increased if a person hit by, or in the near vicinity of, a lightning strike is listening to an iPod.

According to Eric J. Heffernan, MB, of Vancouver General Hospital, British Columbia, Canada, and colleagues, iPod ear buds can serve as a direct conduit to the head. In fact, according to a letter published in a recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, that is exactly what happened to a 37-year-old jogger who ruptured the tympanic membranes in both ears. Dr. Heffernan theorized that a "combination of sweat and metal earphones" directed current to and through the man's head.

Dr. Heffernan said that just listening to an iPod will not likely increase the possibility of being hit by lightning, but if you have the ear buds connected to an iPod at the moment lightning strikes something very close by, the current could travel from the object being hit to you and very likely travel up the cord from the iPod to do serious, and sometimes irreparable, damage to the ears. While this may be the first report linking a lightning strike to the use of an iPod, there was a documented case of a 15-year-old girl who was struck by lightning while using a cell phone in a large London park during a storm.

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