Thursday, March 27, 2008

Can Lightning Make a Hearing Become Deaf or a Deaf Become Hearing?

It all happened last July when Jason Bunch, 18, using an iPod was struck by lightning while mowing the grass. At least he survived but he had to go through two surgeries to repair the ruptured eardrums. He had not regain his hearing putting him in the position to deal with this new experience as a Deaf person.

I find it interesting that Dr. Mary Ann Cooper, an expert on the effects of lightning on the body, said burns and punctured eardrums are common and displaced ossicles have also been reported in people injured by lightning. The statistics shows that only about 10% of people who are struck by lightning are killed, leaving 90% with various degrees of disability. When I looked up the type of disability, it is mostly the alternation of the nervous system that may affect the brain. "When the brain is affected, the person often has difficulty with short-term memory, coding new information and accessing old information, multitasking, distractibility, irritability and personality change. Early on, survivors may complain of intense headaches, ringing in the ears, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and other post-concussion types of symptoms. Survivors may also experience difficulty sleeping, sometimes sleeping excessively at first and then only two or three hours at a time. A few may develop seizure-like activity several weeks to months after the injury." Nowhere in this site did it mention deaf as one of the "disabilities".

Another similar case happened to a Vancouver jogger who played iPod listening to religious music when lightning struck him left him deaf not dead. He was even thrown about 2.4 metres by the lightning's impact! It sounded like a painful, torturous experience since he suffered burns from his chest up into his ear channels also down on his leg and on the foot. Ouch! I find it interesting that it happened while he was listening to religious music. Was there a purpose for this to happen? He now wears two hearing aids and it was said that "he no longer plays in the church orchestra because of his hearing deficit."

It turned out that Cooper, an emergency room physician and medical professor at the University of Illinois in Chicago, said the iPod didn't draw the lightning to the man.

"Metal doesn't attract lightning and there is very little metal in iPods anyway," she said from Chicago.

"But once electricity contacts the iPod, then the metal will conduct the electricity and can cause secondary burns as this gentleman had to his chest underneath where the iPod was and up where the wires went up into his ears and possibly even cause enough muscle contraction that either caused the jaw fracture or perhaps he fell forward onto his jaw."

Neurologist Dr. Ernest Nitka said the man would have suffered harm regardless, but the iPod accounted for his peculiar pattern of injury.

"Once there was a flashover from the tree the shock would find an easy resistance path," Nitka said in an e-mail from Denver, Colo., where he works with the Lightning Data Center at the St. Anthony Hospitals.

"This is where the iPod came in to the story. The particular injuries were made possible, if you will, because of the iPod. Without the iPod, the spectrum of injuries would have been different but there would have been injuries nonetheless."

Cooper said the iPod contributed in another way as well.

"Our recommendations are: When thunder roars, go indoors," she said. "If you're on a cellphone or if you've got an iPod, you're not going to hear the first and best warning that lightning is in the area, which is the thunder."

As for the offending iPod, well, it was "damaged beyond repair. Absolutely burned to a crisp," Heffernan said.

The man has bought another, the doctor reported. But as the old adage goes, once burned, twice shy. He no longer wears an iPod when he goes out for a jog.

Aside from the relationship between iPod and lighting, iPod alone still can cause hearing loss. Nearly a fifth of students tested in a recent study were found to have some degree of hearing loss. Researchers at the University of Florida say middle and high-school students were found that about 17% had some degree of hearing loss. Most of the loss was in higher pitches. It's the first range that's likely to be lost when hearing is damaged by loud music-players.

Now get this! I found an article that was published in New York Times on July 16, 1911 with a headline that said:

LIGHTNING CURES DEAFNESS.; Aged Woman Long Deaf Cured When House Was Struck.

Mind-boggling, isn't it? Her house was struck by lightning causing Jane Decker, aged 65, to recover her hearing. "She had been deaf since childhood. The bolt of lightning entered the roof near the chimney, shatterred a number of rafters, tore through two floors, wrecking windows and frames, stunning her. She was sore for a number of days and claimed that her hearing is good that she is able to carry on a conversation in an ordinary tone of voice." Isn't this hard to believe that it actually happened?


Jean Boutcher said...

According to some biographers, the profoundly deaf Beethoven did hear it, too. He was very ill in bed. As soon as a lightning struck his dwelling house, he woke up and looked at the window and lifted his hand in a fist. Then he died!

Here is Biographer Thayer's piece which I quoted in my term paper for my music history professor at Gallaudet in 1989:

"According to Huttenbrenner, who was in the room, there was a sudden flash of lightning which garishly illuminated the death-chamber--snow lay outside--and a violent thunderclap. At this startling, aweful peal of thunder, the dying man suddenly raised his head and stretched out his right arm majestically, 'like a general giving orders to an army.' This was but for an instant; the arm sank down; he fell back. Beethoven was dead.
--A. W. Thayer, Life of Beethoven, 1866"

kw said...

Interesting post! Thanks. :-)

drmzz said...

I don't want to find out (if it can make me hearing or even more Deafer), haha. Obtaining x-ray vision would be nice thou. :)

Anonymous said...

John Critser says:

Lightning can go either ways, cause one to become Deaf, or cure one of Deafness (reverse the Deafness), because lightning is an act of God and according to His purpose, He decides the outcome of the lightning strike.

We see circumstances caused by the fiery mother nature and legally it can be called an "act of God." I might be wrong, but that is what I believe.

15 years ago, I was visiting Daytona Beach, Florida and had just stepped out of my car then lightning struck just barely 5-to-7feet in front of me. Good thing I got out of the car at that very moment because if I got out of the car 1 minute earlier, I could have been struck by the lightning.

Result? A higher sex drive and walked away a more wise man.

Just kidding. But it was the closest encounter I ever had with lightning.

Anonymous said...

Heard that it'd be much safer to
stay in the car, all doors and
windows closed. Safer than standing near the car.

Anonymous said...

John Critser says:

Yeah, whether I stayed in the car or got out of the car one minute later, I would have been safe because it was not God's divine appointed time for an act of God to strike me with lightning. It's his call.

However, you're right on the dot that it's safer to stay in the car, all doors and windows closed. Safer than standing near the car, absolutely.

Once I drove in Texas and there was this most marvelous lightning storm I had ever seen in my life. It seemed like God was really busy that night. God put on quite a display! It lasted for about 45 minutes while I was on the highway. And they were big, and even showed brillant hues of white, blue, orange or any other similarly illuminated color.

It was a thousand times better than a typical fireworks display, even a grand NYC fireworks display.