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Why Golfers Might Need To Wear Earplugs

The latest titanium drivers might be dangerous to your hearing.

If you play golf, you might want to consider wearing earplugs while you play.

You want to hear clearly when you hit that amazing shot, but you don’t want to ruin your hearing when you do. Fortunately, the latest clubs have been modified to reduce the impact when hitting the ball. However, the new titanium drivers might still affect your hearing.

If you want to hear clear and know when you have hit that perfect shot, consider wearing earplugs while you play.

How to hear more clearly when playing golf

A study from 2009, published by the British Medical Journal, said that the hearing of golf players might be endangered from the noise from the impact of the latest thin-faced titanium drivers hitting the balls.

The new clubs make it viable for the players to propel the ball further and enhance their game, but it turns out that they also add another risk to their hearing.

"Sonic Boom"

A 55-year-old golf player suffered from hearing loss and tinnitus in his right ear because of the metal club’s booming noise. The man said that the new clubs sounded like a gun going off, and the doctors couldn’t find any other explanation for his hearing problems.

He had been using the King Cobra LD for 18 months, three days a week. It had become so irritating that he decided to ditch the club, but he had already suffered some hearing loss by this time.

Doctors at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital carried out a number of tests on the eager golfer after he showed up at their clinic with unexplained tinnitus and reduced hearing in his right ear.

The tests confirmed that his hearing problems were distinctive of those seen with exposure to loud noises.

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Drives my friends crazy with that booming

The doctors searched the web for reviews of the King Cobra LD club and said they came across some interesting comments.

One player said: "This is not so much a ting but a sonic boom which resonates all through the course!”

Another reported:” Drives my friends crazy with that booming 'BANG' sound.”

The doctors decided to hire a professional golfer to hit shots with six thin-faced titanium clubs from various manufacturers such as King Cobra, Mizuno, Callaway, and Nike.

Each of them produced a louder noise than standard thicker stainless steel drivers.

The worst violator was the Ping G10 at over one hundred and thirty decibels.

"golfers should be cautious while playing with these thin-faced clubs"

One of the lead researchers stated: "Our results exhibit that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce enough sound to cause temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals."

He said golfers should be cautious while playing with these thin-faced clubs as they make much more noise and advised they should wear earplugs for protection.

Crystal Rolfe, an audiologist for the RNID, said: "Proneness to loud impulse sounds over time can cause damage. This type of golf club produces a short, sharp burst of thunderous peak sound."

"Earplugs could offer a certain type of protection, and if someone was playing regularly with this kind of club, they might consider wearing them. But this is only one individual case, so we require more research."

Dr. Martin Strangwood ( University of Birmingham), an expert in sports equipment engineering, said manufacturers designed the sound of the club to get a "good" sound for the player.

filling the head of the club

Lately, manufacturers have inclined towards making booming clubs for drivers. But if this were a problem, it would be simple to solve by filling the head of the club with foam to reduce the sound."

He said wearing earplugs was another solution but said players use the noise as feedback to estimate how they are playing and how good their equipment is performing. "So, it might not work for everyone."

The authors did say that there have been no population studies yet on damage because of golf clubs (Tiger Woods may disagree). While golf may be popular among retirees who have age-related hearing loss, there has been no sign of increased inner-ear damage among younger, healthier players. They think that this may be because titanium clubs have only lately become popular and ultra-thin-faced clubs even more recently.  There is also a possibility that golfers have suffered minor hearing loss without even realizing it.

Questions related to the study

  1. When hitting a golf ball, is the exposure to the right ear higher than that for the left for a right-handed golfer?  The correct position for striking the ball requires that the head is lined up directly at the golf ball and remains steady until after the ball is hit. However, any hearing loss happened; it should be symmetrical.  Keeping the head still does not occur in all cases, but aim to hit a golf ball with your head moving away from the ball before you strike it (or in this case, miss it, so you would only hear a swish).  Also, binaural SPL (Sound pressure level) measurements show that a right-handed golfer is exposed to higher levels at the left ear than the right, seemingly because the sound sources (clubhead and ball) are rushing away from the right ear.

  2.  How many balls would someone need to hit to exceed damage risk criteria? Using the 130 dB SPL high-end level and a 3-dB exchange rate (the most strict method) to determine safe exposure levels, a person would be allowed to hit 200 drives within 24 hours before hearing protection would be required.

Picking the right earplug

Imagine golf as a long, quiet game of chess. Now imagine giving the other player a set of power tools with which to annoy you during the entire match.

The simplest solution is to just wear earplugs, which—though they mute your playing partner's tinkering and whining—won't have any effect on your game whatsoever.

In this post we'll take a look at why golfers might want to wear earplugs and discuss some types of plugs that are most popular with recreational players.


Picking A Type Of Earplug

There are several kinds of earplugs (technically called ear plugs or ear muff plugs) on the market, and they come in a bewildering array of shapes, sizes and prices.

"You need a pair of universal-fit plugs that fit all your ears," advises Jonathan Moadel, an audiologist in San Diego whose website contains a FAQ section on ear protection. "That's the whole point of having them, to make sure they fit perfectly.

Know Your Enemy

When you're choosing earplugs, it's wise to take the specific environment you're golfing in into account, according to James Howard, director of communications for the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. "If you're in an environment where you're going to be playing a game of tag with a bunch of other golfers," says Howard, "use plugs that block low frequency sounds. The lower frequencies the better. High frequency sounds are heard very well by your ears, but they don't transmit well through earplugs."

Howard recommends an air-isolating plug, which works in conjunction with a head cover and provides more protection for your eardrums.

Make Sure They Fit Properly

Once you've chosen your earplugs, it's important to make sure that they fit properly in order to get the most protection. "The way you know if they fit well is that your ear canal should be completely collapsed," Moadel says. "If it's not collapsed, the plug will probably move around, and you won't hear so well."

Decide How Often You'll Use Them

Another thing to consider when buying earplugs is whether or not you plan to use them every time you play. Howard recommends that you do: "Wearing them all the time can reduce your risk of hearing loss by 80 percent," he says.

Test Them Out Before You Buy Them

"Try some of the earplugs out before you buy them so you know what they're like," Moadel advises. "If they're not comfortable, you can probably tell within 15 minutes. If your ear is blocked up inside, you won't hear very well."

Know The Right Level Of Protection

After picking out your earplugs, it's time to choose the right level of protection from the salesperson. "What's the difference between a 3 percent and 5 percent rating?" Moadel asks. "There's not a lot of difference in terms of what noise they block. There are also plugs that can block wind noise if you're riding a motorcycle or playing in the wind."

How Much Noise Do They Block?

A decibel (dB) is a sound intensity unit that measures the loudness of a sound. The higher the dB level, the louder a sound will be. The loudest possible sound is referred to as "186 dB," which occurs—you guessed it—when you either damage your ears with strong, sustained sounds or blow them out entirely.

Do They Fit Well?

Even if you bought the best earplugs money could buy, they won't do you any good if they don't fit properly. "Earplugs should be tight enough to stop the sound but loose enough so that they don't hurt," Moadel says. "If they're properly fitted, you shouldn't feel them, but you should be able to see that your ear canal is collapsed."

The Right Way To Use Them

When it comes to using earplugs correctly, Howard's recommendations are simple: "You insert the earplug into your ear canal, and then you cup it around the outside with your fingers," he says. "If you have a good seal, the plug should block out all the noise. You shouldn't touch your ear canal when you're inserting the earplug."

The Wrong Way To Use Them

One very popular mistake novice golfers make is what Howard calls "deaf" insertion, in which they insert the plug into their ear canal without popping it in all the way. What this does is turn a closed ear canal into an open one, letting wind noises through.

"There's a huge sound difference between a closed ear canal and an open one," Moadel says. "If you put the plug in all the way, it won't matter whether it's a good seal or not."

When To Replace Them

Now that you know how to care for your earplugs, you'll want to make sure you're buying the right ones in the first place. In a perfect world, you'd buy a pack of earplugs and never replace them. But if you take care of your plugs correctly, they should last for several rounds before they start to lose their protection abilities.

"When people use them wrong, they don't give them enough time to dry out," Moadel says. "When people use them right, they are able to give them enough time to dry out."

How To Care For Them

Once you've gotten the hang of inserting your plugs correctly, here's what you need to do on the course: "Clean your earplugs with hot soapy water after each round," Howard says. "You should also occasionally wash them. We recommend using mild soap and warm water. Soap is best because it will not irritate your eardrums."

 Protecting Your Hearing Without Impacting Your Game

While earplugs will diminish the loud impulse noises linked to driving a golf ball, most players won’t be satisfied using them as the distinctive feedback sound of a perfect drive will be hard to hear correctly. There is, however, an alternate solution that will give the necessary feedback a golfer wants to hear. A golfer can use a set of molded earplugs with special filters to suppress loud sounds across the full range of frequencies we hear. These special earplugs will provide the player with all the audible detail needed to assess their driving technique and enable partaking in a conversation with their golf partner without removing the molded earplugs.

Final Words

The study mentioned in this article was not thorough enough and had no statistical evidence. However, we should not diminish its results since this was one of the first studies of this type. There is a slight possibility that titanium clubs could induce minor hearing loss, and because of that, it is advised to wear molded earplugs as a precaution if you visit the golf court frequently.

Please Note: Just because an ear defender is marked, for example, "Gunshot" - it will still cover other things, like "explosions"

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Other Questions

Can Pro golfers wear earplugs?

Yes, golfers can wear earplugs. According to researchers, thin-faced titanium drivers create noise up to 130 dB, which is loud. All noises above 85dB are dangerous, and exposure to them for a longer period of time can cause hearing problems such as tinnitus and hearing loss.

Sometimes, tinnitus can go away on its own however it can be permanent as well. Similarly, hearing loss can be temporary and permanent that is why it is recommended them to use proper hearing protection such as earplugs. Sometimes the audience or bystanders can prove to be distracting for the golfers, so in that case earplugs can also come in handy.


Can you listen to music while playing in a golf tournament?

You should not. In fact, you should try to block all kinds of sounds so you don’t get distracted. According to the 14-3 rule of golf, artificial devices and unusual equipment cannot be used while making a stroke or taking a shot, and to listen to music you’d obviously need some kind of device.

However, music can act as a mood altering stimulant so while driving from putting green to the next tee you may play some music but anything longer than that can cause penalties or even disqualification.


Are laser rangefinders legal in golf?

Yes, they are legal in golf. Previously laser rangefinders and GPS were not allowed in golf however according to the new rules of golf in 2019, people who play golf are now allowed to use DMDs (distance-measuring devices) such as laser rangefinder and GPS units for both recreational or competitive games of golf.

Before that, some local rules allowed players to use DMDs, but they weren’t allowed to use them in tournaments. DMDs are primarily used for measuring the distance to the hole or any other location on the golf course to help the golfer in shot selection.



If you require more information, please check these references

Hearing Aids Golf And Life , article, "journals.lww.com", retrieved on, Tue 03-November-2020

Hearing, listening and acting , article, "books.google.co.uk", retrieved on, Tue 03-November-2020

Is golf bad for your hearing? , article, "www.bmj.com", retrieved on, Tue 03-November-2020


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Nick Le Page

Experience : Hi, I am Nick, and I have suffered with ear problems my whole life, mainly tinnitus. I have tried a lot of products to help protect my ears over this period, and several devices to block out the constant ringing

“Are you having problems hearing? If so, those around you already know it. Hearing loss is no laughing matter, so don’t be a punchline.”

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