January 5, 2009
New Generation Golf Clubs Linked To Hearing Loss
Doctors are warning patients who use new titanium drivers that they should use earplugs to protect against hearing loss.
New generation titanium drivers are becoming more popular because they add distance to golfers' strokes. But doctors say the ultra-thin faced clubs can create a "sonic boom" sound when it strikes the ball.
This sound may be loud enough to damage hearing, M.A. Buchanan, an ear nose and throat specialist, and colleagues at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital reported in the British Medical Journal.
Researchers analyzed the case of a 55-year-old man who had entered the outpatient clinic with tinnitus "“ ringing in the ears "“ and reduced hearing in his right ear.
The man had been playing golf with a King Cobra LD titanium club three times a week for 18 months, and he told doctors that the sound of the club face striking the ball was similar to the sound of a gun going off.
After MRI scans of the man's middle and inner ear, doctors concluded that the hearing loss was linked to the loud noise coming from the golf club.
Researchers found other interesting reviews of the King Cobra LD club on the Internet.
"Drives my mates crazy with that distinctive loud "ËBANG' sound. Have never heard another club that makes so distinctive a sound. It can be heard all over the course, it is mad!!" one golfer wrote.
"This is not so much a ting but a sonic boom which resonates across the course!" said another.
Researchers use something known as the coefficient of restitution (COR) to measure of the elasticity or efficiency of energy transfer between a golf ball and club head.
"The United States Golf Association, in conjunction with the Royal and Ancient, St Andrews, Scotland, stipulates that the upper limit of COR for a golf club in competition use is 0.83.3 This means that a club head striking a ball at 100 miles per hour (mph) will cause the ball to travel at 83 mph. Thinner faced titanium clubs, such as the King Cobra LD, have a greater COR and deform on impact more easily, the so called trampoline effect, not only propelling the ball further, but resulting in a louder noise."
The doctors asked a professional golfer to participate in the study by hitting three two-piece golf balls with six thin-faced titanium golf drivers and six standard thicker faced stainless steel golf drivers.
They used a modular precision sound level meter to determine the level of sound resonating from each club.
They found that each of the thin faced clubs were louder than the traditional stainless steel clubs. However, they noted, the King Cobra LD was not the loudest one of the bunch.
"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," researchers concluded.
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