Physicians are warning patients who use new titanium drivers that they should use earplugs to protect against hearing loss because the clubs threaten golfers’ hearing with a noise that some say is as loud as a gunshot.

New generation titanium drivers are gaining in popularity because they add distance to golfers’ strokes. But physicians say an ultra-thin faced club can create a sonic boom sound when it strikes the ball.

The 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.

One 55-year-old man appears to have suffered hearing loss after playing with a King Cobra LD titanium club three times a week for 18 months, the Daily Mail recently reported. The man told doctors that the sound of the club face striking the ball was similar to the sound of a gun going off. Researchers analyzed the man’s case after he entered an outpatient clinic with tinnitus ringing in the ears and reduced hearing in his right ear.

After MRI scans of the man’s middle and inner ear, physicians 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 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 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, resulting in the so-called trampoline effect, not only propelling the ball further, but resulting in a louder noise.

Physicians tested the sound level generated by six titanium clubs and six of the older-style stainless steel ones. They found the noise generated by the titanium clubs hitting a golf ball is far louder than the "tink" of the steel club making a shot.

"Our results show that thin-faced titanium drivers may produce sufficient sound to induce temporary or even permanent cochlear damage in susceptible individuals," said Malcolm Buchanan, MD, an eye, ear, nose and throat specialist who also plays golf. "Players should be careful when playing with these thin-faced clubs rather than the thicker-faced versions, as they make a lot more noise."

[Source: Two articles on redOrbit 1, 2, and United Press International]