Everyone's heard the lecture on how you shouldn't use the telephone in a storm unless it's an emergency, due to a risk of electrical shock. My understanding is this is true and numerous people have died from lightning striking the telephone wires and electrocuting telephone users. Most reports say lightning enters through one's ear.
How exactly would this work? Most telephone receivers are plastic and plastic does not conduct electricity as well as metal or water. The copper wire from the PSTN connects to the telephone, but the only part of the telephone that you would touch is made out of plastic.
So how exactly can using the telephone be dangerous? Can lightning travel into the plastic part of a receiver and through the air into someone's ear? Is there a way to be safe when using a landline telephone or prevent this from happening?
For example, if you have a speakerphone connected to the line, does that reduce the risk? If you hold the receiver away from your ear, are you safe? If you put metal or water near the telephone, will the lightning strike that instead of your ear?
*If you haven't figured it out, I'm talking about normal landline telephones, not the crazy alternatives that people try using nowadays.