June 15, 2010

Vuvuzelas Pose Risk To Hearing

The vuvuzela horns -- also called stadium horns -- being blown by fans at World Cup matches are so loud that anyone within close range could suffer hearing damage, according to experts on Monday.

The sound emitted by the vuvuzela puts out a deafening 127 decibels, according to a South African study. That makes it louder than a whistle (121 decibels) and almost as loud as a jet taking off at about 1000 feet, which is around 130 decibels.

Bursts of sound at such high levels can be disastrous to hearing, as they can destroy hair cells in the inner ear, of which do not regenerate once lost, said French specialist Mireille Tardy.

Decibels are measured on a logarithmic scale, which means that every 10-point rise in the scale reflects a tenfold increase in intensity.

At a distance of six feet, "10 vuvuzelas will be 10 decibels higher and 100 vuvuzelas 20 decibels higher" than a single horn, said Christian Gelis, a professor of biophysics.

"To be exposed to this type of volume raises the risk of immediate inner-ear trauma," with lasting damage to hearing, said Gelis.

Wearing good-quality earplugs can reduce noise levels by 20 decibels and can eliminate the highest risks, but would still not bring the wearer into a safe zone, both Gelis and Tardy said.

Image Courtesy Wikipedia