The game of golf is filled with hazards. Bodies of water, bunkers and sand traps, and dense vegetation can all wreak havoc with your game. Another important yet often ignored factor that can affect your final score is your hearing. Studies show individuals with strong binaural hearing (the ability to perceive sound with both ears) tend to play better golf than those suffering from hearing loss.
What role does hearing play in golf? An important one, it turns out. By paying close attention to the sound made when the club head comes into contact with the ball, golfers can control their shots better, in terms of distance and accuracy. This is especially true when taking chip shots or putting; in these situations, power is less a factor than finesse. Hearing the tone produced by the club striking the ball can help the golfer judge how well the ball was hit, and allow him or her to make any necessary adjustments for the next swing. Changes in tone and volume indicate a different swing of the club; by paying close attention to both the feel of the club making contact with the ball, and the sound produced, golfers will naturally improve the quality of their play over time.
Conversely, when hearing is impaired, the golfer loses the benefit of this additional sense. Swings are less accurate, and scores tend to rise. Golfers playing in pairs or groups may have trouble following conversations, especially when there is background noise (e.g. wind blowing or a bumpy golf cart ride). This can lead to misunderstandings and poor decision making skills. Inevitably, when an individual is suffering from a hearing loss, he or she tends to lose interest in otherwise enjoyable activities. Having difficulty hearing while playing prevents them from being fully engaged in the game.
Golf legend Arnold Palmer lends credence to the idea that good hearing is crucial to accuracy. Palmer was diagnosed with hearing loss in his 40s, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He credits hearing aids with improving his hearing ability and golf game. “When I walked out on the golf course the first day I had a hearing aid,” he says, “I heard things I hadn’t heard on the golf course, like the click of hitting a putt or hitting a golf ball, or the air going through the club when I was swinging it. It made a tremendous difference”.
Paul Azinger, winner of eleven PGA tournaments – including one major, the 1993 PGA Championship at Inverness – echoes Palmer’s sentiments. He is quoted as saying “Hearing is huge” when referring to golf, and describes the golfer’s ability to hear how well contact is made with the ball as a key factor in becoming a great ball driver.
Indeed, good hearing allows you to better enjoy the activities in which you compete, and will naturally make you feel more engaged with your golf game. You’ll enjoy increased confidence, and will have more control over your swing – and ultimately, your final score.
Regular hearing evaluations by a qualified audiologist or otolaryngologist are a good idea for avid golfers. Hearing loss is both progressive and cumulative, and often develops so gradually you are unaware of a problem until it has progressed to an advanced stage. The earlier hearing loss is detected, the more options you have for treatment and the better your odds for success.