Tee Time, Can It Cause Hearing Loss?


Susan L Fenrich, BC-HIS*

Not just the young damage hearing through leisure time activities.

Earlier we discussed the potential for hearing loss associated with the extended use of mp3s and iPods by young people. It would seem however that risking damaged hearing through our leisure activities is by no means confined to the young.   The demographics in our local county alone tell us that there are close to 10,000 people aged 65 and over. There are also close to a dozen different successful golf courses and/or driving ranges in a county of just over 115, 000 people.  Since the majority of the people in the county are still of working age and not on the golf courses during the week; what does that tell us about who is?

Titanium drivers can cause hearing loss!

Another interesting statistic is that of all the different makes and styles of golf clubs available today some of the most popular are the new, thin faced titanium drivers. Unfortunately, there is increasing evidence that these clubs produce dangerous sound levels when contacting a golf ball. In a Time Magazine article dated January 5, 2009 author Eben Harrel states the following:

A study in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal found that modern thin-faced titanium golf clubs produce a noise loud enough to damage the sensitive hairs of the inner ear. Provocatively titled “Is Golf Bad for Your Hearing?” 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. After ruling out age-induced hearing loss and damage from exposure to other loud noises, the patient’s doctors at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital in eastern England decided to test his golf club.

Doctors gauged 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 measuring device was positioned 5.6 feet (1.7 m) away from golf pro at an outdoor tee — approximating 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.

How loud is that “ping”?

Gradual hearing loss is an often unavoidable and irreversible part of the aging process.  By the time the avid golfers reach 65 years of age, they have probably used these titanium clubs for quite some time. When combining the aging process with the ping from the golf club, there is potential for seriously exacerbating a natural process and hastening the loss without even being aware of it.

Even at a relatively moderate schedule, for example 18 holes twice a week, that equates to three dozen tee shots a week. If all of these strokes are done with a titanium driver within a month your ears have been subjected to 144 tee shots that produce decibel levels of 120-128 dB. The following list from the Hearing Care Blog shows us how that compares to other noise producing 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

Add to this any time spent at indoor driving ranges where the sound is magnified by the enclosures and one can see the potential for serious problems.

Senior citizens are not known for engaging in activities where there are uncomfortable sound levels. However if you’re experiencing unexplained hearing loss and you are an avid golfer and partial to using clubs with thin faced titanium heads that might just be the cause to your problem.

A Solution

Welsch Hearing Aid Company offers custom earplugs to help minimize the effects of that loud impulse “Ping” when you tee off.  If the hearing loss is already present however it’s probably a good time to have your hearing tested. This is often offered without cost or obligation. If hearing loss is present, hearing aids can help you hear the people you’re with while cutting down the ping from the club.  The custom hearing aids from ReSound with a remote microphone are excellent for hearing on the windy golf courses.

Telling yourself that you haven’t done anything to cause your hearing problem and just ignoring it won’t solve anything. Many of you haven’t been aware of the potential for damaged hearing through the use of these clubs….now you are.


The content contributions of Welsch Hearing Aid Company should not be considered by anyone as a substitute for medical or other hearing health professional diagnosis, treatment, advice, or recommendations.