It is that time of year again. The weather is warming up. The birds are chirping. The flowers are beginning to peak through the ground (depending upon where you live of course). And many are thinking – time to get outside and exercise.
Unfortunately there’s not much left to do that doesn’t cause a few aches and pains the next day.
Jogging is bad for the knees, hips and ankles. Free weights lead to torn ligaments and other connective tissue injuries. Shuffleboard? Nope. Shuffleboard knee. Tennis? Nope, tennis elbow. So, what’s a person supposed to do to get a little exercise without damaging some body part?
Hey, how about golf? Quiet, natural surroundings – yeah, sounds perfect and relaxing. A favorite past time of many. Unfortunately, golf may sound perfect but it may be anything but perfect for your sound gathering mechanism – the ear.
PING! Golf has the potential to be dangerous to your hearing. Don’t believe it? Check out this study which shows golf has the potential of causing hearing loss.
FORE! Here Comes Hearing Loss
The study was undertaken by three hearing professionals working in the Department of Otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose and throat) at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in the UK.
In the report, the doctors wrote:
“A 55 year old right handed man presented to the ear, nose, and throat outpatient clinic with tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear. Clinical examination was unremarkable.
His pure tone audiogram showed an asymmetrical sensorineural hearing loss, worse on the right, with a decrease on that side at 4-6 kHz, typical of a noise induced hearing loss.
He had been playing golf with a….titanium club [driver] three times a week for 18 months and commented that the noise of the club hitting the ball was "like a gun going off." It had become so unpleasant that he had been forced to discard the club.”
The COR of the Problem
Over the past few decades, golf clubs have evolved to provide every advantage to the weekend duffer and the elite who make the cut for the pro tours. The days of the mashee and niblick have given way to massive drivers with composite shafts and putters that are eight-feet long. This ain’t your grandma’s round of golf.
Part of the problem comes from the evolution or expansion of a driver’s COR – its coefficient of restitution. COR is a measure of a golf club’s (or baseball bat’s) elasticity. Today’s golf clubs are made to produce a whip-like action to spank that Spalding a few yards farther down the fairway – or a few yards deeper into the rough depending on how good you are off the tee.
This whip-like action speeds up the club head as it makes contact with the ball. In doing so, the large, titanium club head, now the size of a beach ball, creates a loud PING sound that’s been described as “like a gun going off.”
The UK Study: Links on the Links
So, if you spend your weekends walking the links and getting in your 18, consider the impact your big driver may be having on your hearing. The UK report examined other drivers to determine if there was a safe, metal driver that didn’t sound like the blast from a gun.
From the report:
“The experience of our patient prompted us to study the sound levels produced by different golf drivers. 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…..
The thin faced titanium clubs all produced greater sound levels than the stainless steel clubs. Interestingly, the club used by our patient (King Cobra LD) was not the loudest.
Our results show that thin faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary, or even permanent, cochlear damage, in susceptible individuals. The study presents anecdotal evidence that caution should be exercised by golfers who play regularly with thin faced titanium drivers to avoid damage to their hearing.”
Hearing is part of a higher quality of life. It’s something worth thinking about; it’s something worth protecting.
Sure, the loud bang of a titanium driver with a whip-like action is going to create a loud sound. Loud enough to do damage to the delicate, sensitive hearing mechanism nature provided.
But you know what? The lawn mower is going to pump out some sound. And that MP3 player permanently affixed to your ears. The ambient noise on a busy city street – all of these add up to a problem – risk of noise induced hearing loss.
So, it’s not just about titanium drivers, we live in a noisy world – even when we’re not aware of it. Ours is the first generation to live in a world where noise is everywhere – in the home, at work or school and on the streets.
Bottome line, the solution to protecting your hearing – whether driving the 12th hole or off-roading with your 250cc dirt bike – is to wear hearing protection. Ear plugs have been developed to enable the wearer to hear normal conversations while blocking out loud, damaging concussive sounds – impact sounds.
The solution is simple. An increased awareness of what you’ve got and what you stand to lose - the ability to hear and enjoy the sounds around us. And finally, taking precautions to protect the hearing you have.
It’s not hard. In fact, protecting your hearing, whether mowing the lawn or driving for par, is simpler than sinking a 12-foot putt.
So dust off your clubs. Time to get in some greens practice before your first round of the season, with ear protection on hand for tee-off of course.