Nope, not a CD of the latest repetitive football anthem but the vuvezela – a plastic horn that gets blown by South African football fans at matches. This instrument/weapon of torture is fast becoming one of the most talked about subjects in this year’s World Cup.
The reason for the scientific interest is that it can be loud – very loud. A survey by hearing aid manufacturer Phonak said that tests have measured the noise of a vuvezela to be the equivalent of 127 decibels. And that is just one – imagine the din from a stadium full of them.
This could be a great context to a KS3 lesson on noise and hearing loss.
We know that sounds louder than 80 decibels are considered potentially dangerous. How much damage done to the ear depends on how loud the sound is and how long the exposure. The very loud noise from a vuvezela (which at 127dB, is about the same as an air-raid siren) can permanently damage your hearing after about 7 minutes of exposure. I’m guessing this risk increases if you are surrounded by the things and as a match lasts for at least 90 minutes attending one is not something that your ears are going to be thanking you for.
The PowerPoint I have written contains a starter which engages the students’ interest by showing a picture of a vuvezela and asking them why it is not good for their ears. The next slide contains an activity that asks them to place sounds like a jet engine in the correct place along a decibel scale. After revealing the answers, they are then asked about the vuvezela – just how loud is it?
The final slide explains why loud sounds are dangerous and asks what advice they would give fans who are attending the matches at the World Cup – using ear plugs might be a sensible approach!