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Department of Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology

Vuvuzelas may pose a hearing risk at the Soccer World Cup

By Dept of Communication Pathology

Posted on 14 April 2010

Vuvuzela Noise Measurements at the University of Pretoria
Vuvuzela Noise Measurements at the University of Pretoria

The sound output of the Vuvuzela may pose a hearing health care risk for spectators who plan to attend the 2010 Soccer World Cup, says Audiologists.

The Vuvuzela will be a unique and distinct feature of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup to be held in South Africa. In an attempt to document the possible public health risk posed by the noise levels produced by the Vuvuzela, researchers in the Department of Communication Pathology have conducted several studies. These are now published in three papers that have appeared in the South African Medical Journal (references listed below). Various national and international Television broadcasters have reported these Vuvuzela findings including CNNM-Net's Carte Blanche, SKY News, NBC, and PBG discussed these research findings.

Results demonstrate that the Vuvuzela can reach dangerously loud levels of noise that place spectators at risk for hearing loss if exposed to these levels for more than a few minutes. A follow-up study that measured actual noise exposure levels of spectators at a PSL soccer match indicated that all spectators experienced dangerously loud levels of noise for the 2-hour duration of the match. Significant changes in the hearing of spectators was observed after the match indicating deterioration in auditory functioning. These spectators attended a match with 30 000 other spectators, many of whom blew Vuvuzela. It can only be assumed that the noise levels may be significantly higher in the new stadiums that can accommodate up to 90 000 spectators if the same proportion blow Vuvuzelas.

These studies have highlighted the need for preventative measures leading up to the 2010 Soccer World Cup. Widespread public awareness regarding the possible risks should be prioritized and personal hearing protection for all spectators and personnel working at stadiums should be encouraged.

For more information on the findings of these studies click on the links below for the full-text of the articles.
  1. Swanepoel D, Hall JW III, Koekemoer D (2010). Vuvuzela - good for your team, bad for your ears. South African Medical Journal, 100(2):99-100.

  2. Swanepoel D, Hall JW III, Koekemoer D (2010). Vuvuzela sound measurementsSouth African Medical Journal, 100(4):192.
  3. Swanepoel D, Hall JW III (2010). Football match spectator sound exposure and effect on hearing: a pretest-post-test study. South African Medical Journal, 100(4):239-242.
Previous UP web articles on the Vuvuzela:
  1. Vuvuzela - Good for your team, bad for your ears
  2. Vuvuzela noise exposure at PSL soccer match

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vuvusela - ronald
The vuvuselas can be too irritating sometimes. I think they will be too disturbing for most of the 2010 world cup fans, especially those from European countries as they are used to quietness during games. i suggest that a limited number of vuvuzelas be permited in the games.
vuvusela - Ashley
I think these studies come too late. This is an important issue that should have been highlighted as it is tradition for local soccer supporters to blow it. However, I would support ronald's notion that a limited number only be allowed. Ronald, I don't suppose you mean "un-vuvusela like" instead of "quietness during games" as supporters sing songs and catchy phrases at matches in other parts of the world - from my experience.

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