The latest generation of thin-faced titanium drivers propel a golf ball farther and make the game easier. The price could be hearing loss, according to a case published recently in the British Medical Journal. Using the high-tech clubs at an enclosed driving range is particularly risky.
Based at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in England, doctors decided to conduct tests after a 55-year-old golfer attended their clinic with unexplained tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear. He told them he had been playing golf with a titanium driver three times a week for 18 months and the noise of the club hitting the ball was "like a gun going off." It had become so unpleasant that he had discarded the club.
Investigating online comments from other users of the high-tech clubs, the doctors found one who said the sound was "not so much a ting but a sonic boom which resonates across the course!"
For the doctors’ test, a professional golfer hit three two-piece golf balls with six thin-faced titanium golf drivers and six standard thicker-faced stainless steel golf drivers. They found the thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals.
The lead author, Dr. Malcolm Buchanan, is a keen golfer. He recommended ear plugs as a possible answer.
At first glance, the ear plug idea seems to be a simple ergonomic solution to a known hazard. It isn’t. In an interview about the risky drivers in Scotland’s Scotsman newspaper, professional golfer Andrew Coltart pointed out that ear plugs introduce other hazards. "If you are wearing earplugs you might not hear the shouts of ‘fore’, be hit by a ball on the head and get brain damage."
Source: British Medical Journal; Scotsman