The overseas media has likened its ear-splittingly loud sound to the noise an elephant is bound to make while suffering from various ailments. Kinder reviewers think it sounds more like a monotonous foghorn. Everyone is in agreement about one thing though: it is LOUD.

But whether you love it or loathe it, every hearing person in South Africa as well as those who will be watching or listening to broadcasts of the 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup around the world, will be subjected to the much maligned and mocked (and even warned against) sound of the vuvuzela over the coming month – whether they like it or not.

In case you are still blissfully unaware of what exactly a vuvuzela is, it is a plastic ‘trumpet’ or air horn of about a metre long and is widely considered to be the traditional ‘instrument’ of South African soccer spectators. Unlike real instruments, the vuvuzela does not require any skill or practice to master. Just take a deep breath, blow into it as hard as you can and, voila, it will make an awfully loud noise.

But just how loud is a vuvuzela exactly? At the Hear the World Foundation in Switzerland, tests have reportedly proven that a vuvuzela, blown at full volume, measures 127 decibels, making it even louder than the 100 decibel sound of a chainsaw! Otologists and other ear specialists have warned that prolonged exposure to the sound a vuvuzela makes may cause permanent damage to a person’s hearing.

Should Bafana Bafana, South Africa’s national soccer team, manage to stay in the World Cup past their first match on Friday, we can almost guarantee that the rousing and collective cheer of all South Africans will cause far more damage to the world’s ears than a plastic ‘trumpet’ ever could!

Skattie - Your guide to South African lifestyle


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