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Do Titanium Golf Clubs Cause Hearing Loss?

I’ve been playing golf for most of my life and I can attest to the fact that it’s a game requiring a high degree of concentration and demands that you focus on what you’re doing if you’re to succeed. Therefore, when you’re about to hit your ball, common courtesy dictates that everyone around you stays quiet. As a matter of fact, watch any PGA tournament and it’s not uncommon to see attendants holding up signs saying “Quiet Please”.

So when I heard of a study in the British Medical Journal claiming that the new generation of thin-faced golf drivers are producing a sonic boom that can damage your hearing, I knew I was in for some good reading.

The study focused on the case of a 55-year old man who developed tinnitus and hearing loss in his right ear after playing golf three days a week for 18 months with a thin-faced titanium driver, the King Cobra LD. The golfer had commented that the noise the club made hitting the ball was “like a gun going off” and according to reports it was so unpleasant that the ditched the club but had already suffered some hearing loss.

Now this is where it becomes interesting. The patient’s doctors at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in eastern England decided to test his golf club. The doctors recorded the sound produced by the patient’s club, along with five other titanium clubs, and compared it with that of older-generation steel clubs. A sound level measuring device was positioned 5.6 feet away from a golf pro at an outdoor tee (approximately the distance between a ball and a golfer’s closest ear). Doctors found that all six titanium clubs exceeded safe limits, while only two of the six steel drivers posed a hazard. Interestingly, the club used by the patient (King Cobra LD) was not the loudest. That honor went to the Ping G10 at over 310 dB!!

The lead researcher in the article stated that their results showed that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent hearing loss. He said that golfers should be careful when playing with these thin-faced clubs as they make a lot of noise and suggested they could wear earplugs for protection.

This British study clearly shows that if you’re using a titanium driver, wearing hearing protection may not be such a bad idea. More importantly, wearing hearing protection when teeing off will prevent you from hearing that upsetting sound that comes directly after the hit … the splash!

About Adam Bernstein

Adam Bernstein is the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Milwaukee's premier hearing healthcare facility. As the owner of The Hearing Professionals, Mr. Bernstein has over 20 years of experience in the hearing healthcare industry. He began his career in 1995 at GN Danavox, one of the largest hearing aid manufacturers in the world. After leaving Danavox, Mr. Bernstein opened two hearing healthcare offices in Chicago, IL. In 2001 he moved to Milwaukee, WI and opened The Hearing Professionals. In 2008 he added a second Wisconsin office in the town of Brookfield. Today The Hearing Professionals is the largest private audiology practice in SE Wisconsin. Mr. Bernstein has written numerous articles on hearing healthcare which has appeared in newspapers throughout the country and has been interviewed by news programs regarding advances in the hearing industry. Mr. Bernstein a member of Unitron’s Customer Advisory Board and a graduate of The University of Minnesota. You can email him at adam@icanhearthat.com and you can visit The Hearing Professionals at www.icanhearthat.com.

2 responses »

  1. [Comment date March, 2013] I appear to be a golfer who has lost some of my hearing in one ear due to the titanium driver and think that sharing my story could help others.
    I started playing golf in the late 1990’s and have continued playing more than most people. I have and continue to play 1 or 2 rounds a week and practice on a driving range 1 or 2 times a week. When the titanium drivers came out, I generally played with the Taylor-made models of that era. I am a single digit handicap player with a driver swing speed of around 100 mph.
    In about 2004, I noticed tinnitus in my left ear but didn’t think anything about.it. Over the next 2 years the tinnitus became more noticeable. In 2006, I noticed that I was losing a little of my hearing in my left ear. For the next 3 years, my left ear hearing was degrading slowly, and I attributed it to age ( I was around 60 years old at that time). In March of 2009, I read a short news article in Scientific American Magazine that referenced hearing loss in golfers reported in the British Medical Journal. I started my own experiment by always using foam ear plugs while practicing and playing golf. In the following four years 2009-2013, I have not had any additional hearing loss in my left ear and have normal hearing in my right ear. It took several years, but the tinnitus in my left ear has all but disappeared. I have continued to play golf as often as I did 10 years ago. Playing golf with ear plugs is a slight nuisance, but I have learned to leave the plug in my left ear all the time and taking out and putting in the right-side ear plug on the tee when using my driver.
    For me, the tinnitus was a first sign that my hearing was beginning to degrade. I have never met another golfer who does what I have done, but I have played golf with a few rock band members who always use ear plugs while performing. I hope this story helps others.

    Reply
    • Fred, thank you for the response. I have not heard of anyone wearing earplugs while golfing. I wonder if wearing the earplugs helps you eliminate the ambient noise and therefore allows you to concentrate more on hitting. I’ve had competitive shooters do this.

      Reply

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