When Lightning Strikes July 12, 2007Posted by Mrs Weird Scientist in Easy As Pie, Environment, Human Body, Technology.
Earphones and thunderstorms don’t go together. Sadly, a man from Vancouver, B.C. found this out after he put in his earphones, turned on his ipod and went jogging during a thunderstorm. When he was hit by lightning, the earphones acted as a conductor for the electricity, leaving him with burst eardrums and a fractured jaw.
The Physical Stuff That Happened
As the electricity hit the earphones, a current flowed through his head, causing the man’s jaw muscles to aggressively contract. This resulted in his fractured jaw. He also suffered from burn marks around his face and in his ears. Because the earphones became so hot from the lightning, this heat caused gases to expand, which then ruptured his eardrums, rendering him deaf. You can read a complicated but more detailed explanation in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Fortunately, the man was lucky in that some hearing was restored and he has the help of hearing aids. This is due to the wonders of a cartilage graft. Cartilage is found all around your body in places like your joints, nose and ears. By taking cartilage from another part of the man’s body, doctors were able to use this cartilage to restore some of the structure and function to his eardrums.
If you’re like me, you might be wondering what the man remembers about being hit by lightning. Painful? Scary? I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but he just doesn’t remember. Memory loss is a common effect of being hit by lightning. When a lot of people think about someone getting hit by lightning, they picture major burns, but that’s only one part of the story. Being struck by lightning also has a huge effect on a person’s nervous system, which means they can be left with memory loss or depression.
Blame the Earphones?
Not exactly. The earphones themselves don’t attract lightning. Instead, they act as a vector to transmit its electric flow through the body. So you can safely continue to use your ipod and earphones. Going for a run outside when lightning is crashing, however, would definitely be something to avoid. Save the earphones and enjoy your favorite song on an indoor stereo system instead.