Vuvuzelas may permanently deafen thousands and the horrible horns will arrive in U.S. ballparks this week

The man who first created and marketed the painfully noisy vuvuzela horn is now including ear plugs with the plastic noisemakers.  But Neil Van Schalkwyk’s generosity may come too late for thousands whose hearing has already been damaged or destroyed.

vuvuzelaMeanwhile, shipments of thousands of the hearing-annihilating horns are arriving this week at some U.S. ballparks and team stores.

But those planning to blow their hearts out should know about a study published in the South African Medical Journal which predicts Vuvuzela are doing permanent harm to the hearing of players, referees and security forces as well of many of the thousands of spectators crammed into Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria.

Hearing tests on volunteers done before and after earlier matches have shown measureable hearing losses.  The researchers found the noise in the stadium “reached dangerously high levels,” averaging 131 decibels but up to 144 decibels. At these levels, permanent damage can be done in as little as 15 minutes. The average soccer match runs an hour-and-a-half, they reported.

And remember, there are thousands of people blowing their horns during a match so the potential noise dangers are magnified.

However, if the World Cup playoffs were being held in the U.S., federal safety investigators would probably shut down the games or at least ban the horns because the levels far exceed OSHA’s legal limits for sound which specify that workers can be exposed to a maximum permissible exposure of 90 decibels for an eight-hour work day.6763.GA02

“Noise-induced loss of hearing is an irreversible, (nerve damaging) condition that progresses with exposure,” say  audiologists and other safety specialists from the National Institute for Occupational Safety The NIOSH experts explain that this noise-induced loss is caused by damage to nerve cells of the inner ear (cochlea) and, unlike some conductive hearing disorders, cannot be treated medically.
So to be safe. bring you own ear plugs when you head for the baseball game this week.  Fans are already trying to sneak the hearing-killing horns into some ballparks.

I called the Seattle Mariners team stores and was told that they are getting “an increasing number” of questions on whether the horns are in stock and available in Mariners colors.  The answer is no because the stadium bans the use of all horns.

However, The Palm Beach Post reports that the Florida Marlins will be giving out horns similar to vuvuzelas to the first 15,000 fans in attendance at Saturday game against the Rays.

The horns are already being sold on the Web in “any team color” for about $8 each and some Chinese factories are cranking out 20,000 or more a day anticipating that the irritating noisemaker will be sought by baseball, soccer and football zealots worldwide.

Let’s hope they never find their way to a basketball game.

If you want more details on the hearing damage and learn how events such as car races and monster-truck rallies stack up, check out what I wrote for AOL News this morning.

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