If you are a soccer fan, you will know that the World Cup is being held in South Africa in 2010. The success of the USA team in the dress rehearsal - Confederation Cup 2009 - was unexpected, but the main talking point has been the Vuvuzela.
There is a huge divide between those who love this noisy blowing horn with a passion and those who absolutely hate it.
Originally made out of tin, the vuvuzela became popular in South Africa in the 1990s. A mass produced plastic version very soon appeared. They require some lip and lung strength to blow and emit a monotonous noise rather like a deep foghorn or an elephant so if you can imagine several thousands of these vuvuzelas being blown continuously throughout a soccer match, you will have some idea of the noise volume.
The subject of fierce debate both in South Africa and around the world
The use of the vuvuzela is even being branded as a health hazard on two fronts.
Damage to your hearing is one – the continuous noise over a certain number of decibels on a regular basis can eventually cause deafness. Exposure to harmful sounds – noise that is too long and too loud – can produce hearing loss which can even be permanent when the sensitive structures of the inner ear are damaged. The loudness of sound is measured in units called decibels and prolonged sounds of over 90 decibels are the problem. Continuous exposure to loud noise can also damage the structure of the hair cells in the ear, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus. Exposure may only be temporary which would largely disappear 16 to 48 hours after the exposure. Permanent loss may be accompanied by tinnitus, a ringing buzzing or roaring in the ears or head which may subside over time. This can be in one or both ears and may continue constantly or occasionally throughout your life time. Both forms of hearing loss can be prevented by the regular use of ear muffs but these should be custom fitted by an audiologist to ensure successful blocking out of the noise and are not cheap.
The spreading of germs is the other – the constant blowing on the horn and all that spit that spews out on the crowd is a concern. If there was one way we could make sure of spreading the swine flu virus or TB, or even just normal common colds and flu, this would be it! Most germs are spread through the sneezing, coughing, and of course saliva of those around us. So the soccer stadium could become the perfect breeding ground. And soccer is played in the southern hemisphere winter months.
Vuvuzelas have always been controversial in South Africa and now it has become of world wide interest with radio stations running polls and the media writing thousands of words on whether they should be banned from the World Cup. Most are of the opinion that something has to change so that there is some co-ordination in the use of the horn, that it becomes more tuneful or that it is limited to certain times during a match.
Not easy to change the culture, that has grown so much in the past few years, before 2010 though. Lots of thinking caps are going to have to be put on. South African soccer fans desperately need to be educated on the use of the vuvuzelu so that everyone is happy but that does not answer the question about the health hazards of this instrument.
Do you have the answer to the dilemma that is the vuvuzela?