It's a fact - vuvuzelas can make you deaf
Tens of thousands of blaring vuvuzelas in packed stadiums during the World Cup could leave soccer fans deaf.
Research by the University of Pretoria's communication pathology department has found they pose a significant recreational risk for noise-induced hearing loss and far exceed permissible occupational noise exposure levels in South Africa.
A team measured the noise level of vuvuzelas at a premier league soccer match attended by 30 000 spectators and found it peaked at 140dB (decibels).
Professor De Wet Swanepoel said he would not recommend that anyone be exposed to noise levels above 137dB, even if they were wearing earplugs.
The team measured the average noise level over the two-hour match and found it to be above 100dB.
Subjects wore a sound exposure meter to analyse the intensity and frequency spectrum of the vuvuzela.
Bafana Bafana take on Mexico for the opening World Cup match at the 90 000-seater Soccer City in June, and coach Carlos Alberto Parreira has urged soccer fans to "blow your vuvuzelas as loud as possible".
According to a recent article in the SA Medical Journal, no one within a two-metre radius of a vuvuzela, including the person blowing it, should be exposed to the sound continually for more than a minute.
At an intensity of 100dB, a person should be exposed to less than 15 minutes of such noise a day. The duration safely permissible is halved with every 3dB increase in intensity.
At the lowest recorded intensity in the stadium of 113dB, subjects should not be exposed to more than one minute without protection for their hearing, according to South African occupational noise exposure legislation.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act stipulates that employees, and other people, affected by noise in a company can be exposed to 85 decibels (dB) for eight hours before they must be given hearing protection or steps taken to reduce noise levels
"The vuvuzela has iconic status and should be kept as part of South Africa's soccer culture, but measures to protect spectators' hearing should be paramount," Swanepoel said.
It was also crucial that fans be made aware of the risk before they took their seats at any of the country's stadiums.
"The peak exposure during the research was over 140dB," Swanepoel said. "The intensity far exceeds the noise levels on a construction site or in the mines, which is 85dB."
Local organising committee chief executive Danny Jordaan announced last month that vuvuzelas would be allowed into stadiums for the World Cup matches.
After complaints received during the Confederations Cup in June, Fifa said it was unsure whether the trumpet-like instrument would be allowed into stadiums. But Jordaan gave fans the go-ahead to blow their vuvuzelas.