The effect of titanium golf clubs
Is hearing the ping of your golf club helping your game or, perhaps, hurting you in the long run? The humble and respected avid golfer Sam Haney, of Vancouver, Washington, stated, “I know the moment I hear that ping if it’s going to be that long shot I’ve been waiting for or not quite what I intended.” He uses this auditory information to adjust his swing and perfect his game. Today, with the advent of thin-faced titanium golf clubs, it has been questioned whether the use of these clubs may produce sounds loud enough to cause temporary or permanent hearing loss.
Impulse noise can affect hearing
Continuous loud-noise exposure is the typical culprit of noise-induced hearing loss. However, “impulse noise,” a short-duration disturbance, has long been known to cause hearing loss as well. When you swing your golf club and it connects with the ball, the “ping” it makes is a high-intensity impulse noise, comparable to gunshots and explosions. Decibels (dB) is a universal term used for sound-level measurement. A safe limit for impulse noise is 110 dB.
Exceeding safe decibel levels
A study published in the British Medical Journal by Dr. Malcolm Buchanan was conducted to study driver noise levels. All tested titanium drivers in this study exceeded the safe limit of 110 dB. “In fact, all of them were above 120 dB, with one club cracking out 128 dB,” stated Dr. Buchanan. Higher noise levels will occur if you are practicing your drives at an indoor range, due to the reverberation of sound bouncing back from the enclosure and the limited availability for sound to attenuate over a distance.
Comparing sound levels
Here are a few sound levels to make this “ping” more relative to everyday listening environments:
Snowmobile: 98 dB
Pig squeal: 100 dB
Rock concert: 104 dB
MP3 player: 105 dB
Leaf blower: 110 dB
Jet plane: 120 dB
Jackhammer: 130 dB
Firecrackers: 148 dB
Hearing protection helps
The best advice for avoiding potential noise-induced hearing loss in any loud environment is to wear properly fitted hearing protection. Nearly invisible options are available, as well as specialized filters that protect from the high-impulse sounds while allowing face-to-face conversational speech to come through in most situations. Obtaining a baseline hearing evaluation by an audiologist and following up annually is recommended to identify any potential hearing difficulties.
There are 28.6 million golfers in the U.S., according to the Golf Participation Report published by the National Golf Foundation in 2009, and 36 million adults in the U.S. report some degree of hearing loss. Could there be a correlation?