Researchers from Leeds General Infirmary, St James's University Hospital in Leeds and the Vehicle Safety Research Centre in Loughborough believe that the noise generated when air bags inflate - which can be up to 170 decibels - could damage the ears.
Their findings, published today in the British Medical Journal, are based on two cases in which drivers suffered hearing loss and persistent tinnitus which they believe may have resulted from air-bag inflation in low-speed collisions.
The reputation of airbag safety received a further blow yesterday when a US court ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay $58.5m (pounds 37m) in a class-action lawsuit filed by a woman whose hand was burned when her car's air bag inflated in an accident.
The car giant was told to pay $730 (pounds 450) to each of the 75,000 plaintiffs from Pennsylvania to buy safer air bags for Chrysler vehicles made between 1988 and 1990.
The state court jury also awarded $3.8m (pounds 2.4m) in punitive damages.
The judgment was just the latest against the company involving air bags.
A federal jury in New York in December ordered DaimlerChrysler to pay $750,000 (pounds 470,000) to a family of a five-year-old boy killed by an air bag during a family vacation to Puerto Rico in 1995.
Before the company's merger in November with Daimler-Benz AG, Chrysler and the parents of a five-year-old girl from Nashville, Tennessee, who was killed when a minivan air bag deployed during an accident, reached an out-of-court settlement.Reuse content