Last week, a teenager was electrocuted to death while listening to headphones from a plugged-in mobile phone. Sixteen-year-old Mohd Aidi Azzhar Zahrin was discovered by his mother at their home in the town of Rembau, Malaysia, lying motionless on the floor and cold to the touch, the New Straits Times reports. Blood was pouring from his ear.
Medical checks showed no signs of bruising or external injuries to Mohd’s body, other than some burns on his left ear, and an autopsy later confirmed that the cause of death was electrocution. It’s understood that he was listening to the headphones while charging his phone. According to Seven West Media, his brother also felt a small electric shock when touching the charging cable, indicating that it may have been faulty—although the make and model of the device are as yet unconfirmed.
Mohd is at least the fourth person this year to be killed by a headphone-inflicted electric shock. In February, 17-year-old student Luiza Pinheiro was similarly found dead on the floor of her home in Riacho Frio, Brazil after a “huge electric charge” surged through her phone and the headphones melted in her ears, NewsCorp reported.
“The girl’s grandmother told the doctor that they found her granddaughter unconscious, lying on the floor and with headphones in her ears,” a hospital employee told local media publication G1. “They said they believe that the young woman had an electric shock because the cell phone was charging and the phone was melted.”
In May, a 46-year-old woman in the Indian village of Kanathur was electrocuted after she fell asleep listening to music, The Times of India reported—with local police pointing to a short-circuit as a possible cause of the incident. Then, a month later, a 22-year-old man in the Indian village of Pandyo was listening to music from a plugged-in mobile phone while the electricity in his house was cut off. When the power came back online, the man received an electric shock through his headphones and was also killed, NDTV reported.
This isn’t a problem that’s specific to developing countries, either. In 2014, a 28-year-old Australian woman was found dead at her home in North Gosford, New South Wales after she'd been electrocuted by a USB cable that she was using to charge her phone while listening to music with headphones. In that case, the fatal shock was at least partly attributed to a faulty charging device, the ABC reported.
"We know absolutely that the charger itself failed, and that it arced between the 240 volt input and the five volt output. So that's definitive," said Lynelle Collins of NSW Fair Trading. "We've got photos, we've got proof that's been dismantled, so we know that the charger failed.”
Investigations ascertained that the charger in question was not compliant with Australian standards, and Fair Trading Commissioner Rod Stowe issued a warning about the inherent dangers of using non-approved products.
"These devices pose a serious risk of electrocution or fire,” he said at the time, and the Department of Fair Trading cautioned against using any devices while they're plugged in and charging.