If you have watched even one match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup then you are now familiar with the sound of the vuvuzela, a South African plastic horn for fans. The vuvuzela has raised health concerns including hearing loss not to mention countless complaints.
Martin Rogers, a renowned football journalist, wrote on June 14, "They are plastic, noisy and cost no more than a few bucks. And they are, sadly, sabotaging the World Cup."
And, they can promote hearing loss. The obnoxious sound, commonly described to as a swarm of bees, permeating your TV viewing experience has been studied by health organizations including the global initiative Hear-the-World, created by Phonak, a hearing technology company.
Hear-the World noted the vuvuzela "emits an ear piercing noise of 127 decibels - louder than a lawnmower (90 decibels) and a chainsaw (100 decibels)."
"Extended exposure at just 85 decibels puts us at a risk of permanent noise induced hearing loss. When subjected to 100 decibels or more, hearing damage can occur in just 15 minutes."
Hear the World conducted a study with the "most popular football fan instruments" worldwide and found the vuvuzela is the worst noise polluter but others are not far behind:
1st place: Vuvuzela 127 dB
2nd place: Air-horn 123.6 dB
3rd place: Samba drum 122.2 dB
4th place: Referee whistle 121.8 dB
5th place: 2 fans singing 121.6 dB
6th place: Gas horn 121.4 dB
7th place: Cowbell 114.9 dB
8th place: Wooden rattle 108.2 dB
9th place: Inflatable Fan-Sticks 99.1 dB
However on June 14, Sepp Blatter, the president of FIFA, tweeted, "To answer all your messages re the Vuvuzelas. I have always said that Africa has a different rhythm, a different sound," and continued, "... I don't see banning the music traditions of fans in their own country. Would you want to see a ban on the fan traditions in your country?"
Pajamas Media, an opinion online news source, responded, "Blatter is a maroon. There is nothing remotely close to a ‘musical tradition' in the blowing of these horns from hell."
Some doctors are also concerned that the vuvuzela will also spread colds and the flu.
Downloading the Vuvuzela World Cup iPhone application (€0.79), might keep the flu concerns at bay but you will likely not find many friends at the pub as you try to recreate the South African experience.
Should you be in South Africa, it might be wise to wear your noise-canceling headphones ($100-399/€82-326) to the game and not just on the plane.
Robert Beiny, MD, director of audiology at The Hearing Healthcare Practice and EU Audiologist of the Year, suggested, using "...earplugs - once the damage is done it is irreversible so prevention is key."