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June 16th, 2010
01:10 PM ET

Vuvuzelas deafen and swell lips

By Madison Park
CNNhealth writer/producer

Cape Town, South Africa  (CNN) -  Lips don't lie.

If you're looking for the culprits who've killed your hearing at the World Cup, just look for swollen lips.

The incessant buzz of vuvuzelas  is inescapable. Vuvuzelas - the plastic horns seen throughout South Africa's packed stadiums -  sound like trumpeting elephants or even extended flatulence.

As World Cup events proceed, people pick up vuvuzelas and let out a long wail for no reason at all, and resume their day while in bars, stores and the streets.

Besides complaints from soccer players about the noise, the controversial plastic trumpets cause some health problems. There are the obvious hearing problems after sitting in a cramped stadium clustered with 60,000 fans, each armed with a high-decibel emitting vuvuzela.  Earplugs are in high-demand at drug stores, most have sold out.

They can also spread germs. A London study found that droplets spray from the end of the vuvuzela and warned fans not to use them if they are sick.

Dr. Ruth McNerney from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine warned that if someone with a chest or throat infection uses the vuvuzela in a crowded place, he could spread their infection to lots of people.

CNN's debate on vuvuzelas:
They are unwanted wailers – ditch the vuvuzelas!

How I learned to love the vuvuzela

Then there is "vuvuzela lips" where frequent users' lips have swelled twice in size - almost as if they've suffered bee stings.

"Sometimes when I blow for a long time, it can be swollen," said Romeo Martin, a Cape Town resident who admits to blowing his red plastic vuvuzela more than 100 times a day.

So why does he do it?

Martin shrugged. "Just for the World Cup," he replied. "When Bafana Bafana (the South African national team) is playing, everyone blows vuvuzelas."

It prompted one Facebook user to comment, "Who needs collagen ... get yourself a vuvuzela," according to The Cape Argus, a local Cape Town paper. It also dispensed advice on preventing vuvuzela lips: baby oil or Vaseline, and a cold drink after all the blowing to reduce the swelling.

Editor's Note: Medical news is a popular but sensitive subject rooted in science. We receive many comments on this blog each day; not all are posted. Our hope is that much will be learned from the sharing of useful information and personal experiences based on the medical and health topics of the blog. We encourage you to focus your comments on those medical and health topics and we appreciate your input. Thank you for your participation.


soundoff (119 Responses)
  1. TheRealDoris

    I'm just wondering how these supposedly fervent soccer fans can be paying attention to the game when they're blowing continuously on a horn. It's annoying half-way around the globe – I can't imagine what it's like down on the field.

    June 17, 2010 at 05:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Keith

    AL, yes, people are complaining so it must be the fault of the US. That's quite a leap. Everyone else in the world just loves them. How does a discussion about plastic horns get redirected back to the problems of the world? If those problems are so important, maybe the world cup should be cancelled. The problem with the vuvuzelas is that it drowns out the passion of the crowd. No singing, cries of joy on a goal, only the buzzing of bees can be heard. The fact that we are talking about THEM instead of the games should tell you something.

    June 17, 2010 at 05:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Erick

    Leave the vuvuzelas alone? No.

    Leave the vuvuzelas at home!

    June 17, 2010 at 07:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. AJ

    Sorry Al, you are wrong. Almost every country outside of the African nations are also complaining about the vuvuzela. Read about how the French have reacted. This is hardly a case of the US not understanding "futbol". Exactly how many European matches have you seen in Europe that have vuvuzelas ringing in them? I am actually fine with the vuvuzela while watching on TV. But hearing about how these things can hamr a person's hearing, that is the final straw for me. They should be banned from future competitions.

    June 17, 2010 at 08:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. jamesnyc

    vuvuzelas are just the same as either the digeridoo, shells or other brass instruments like trombone, trumpet or tuba. If you blow on them long enough, your lips will get swollen. I blew something like that 20, 30 years ago in Times Square for New Years. like the digeridoo, the "mouthpiece" doesn't have the same cup as a tuba or trombone mouthpiece and the lips get sucked into the tubing by the force of the air.
    The part about the infections (dang that is gross) you shouldn't be blowing that thing if you are going to be spraying infectious germs around.
    What should concern people is the hearing loss. What Gupta failed to say is that if your ears are ringing after any event, soccer match, Rock Concert etc, then you have permanent hearing damage.

    June 17, 2010 at 08:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Paul

    These horns were banned in college hockey after the Big Red Freakout at RPI in 1987. Around Valentine’s Day each winter, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students come to the rink clad head-to-toe in red, and determined to make so much noise that on more than one occasion they’ve been threatened with a penalty for disrupting play. Students usually get a small freebie (like a red hat or T-shirt) upon entering the rink. Although the red plastic horns given to students in 1987 produced such a cacophony (and an 8-1 win over shell-shocked Brown) that the NCAA issued what’s now known as the “RPI Rule” which bans artificial noisemakers from college hockey rinks. I was there in that 5000 seat rink, and it was the loudest sports event I've ever been to.

    June 17, 2010 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. AJ

    Hey AL, I'm a soccer fan in the U.S., and your comments are a joke. We chant and sing for the entire game. Because you see, this actually takes some thinking and offers variety- blowing plastic horns incessantly does not.

    Granted, yelling for an entire game can't be much better for your health....

    June 17, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. oh my ears

    have you actually tried watching the games on tv? that low buzzing sound will drive you up the wall. Maybe you are lacking a range of hearing. or perhaps all of these people with complaints (I've seen polls with 40+% complaiing) have extra sensitivity to sound.....

    June 17, 2010 at 09:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. daleinri

    It makes me sick to see people who obviously are not educated about other cultures try to force they're tyrant ways on others. The fog horns have been blown way before 2010 FIFA, they are even blown at Music festivals in UK. They are used or some form of them used everywhere else in the world. its no different than a crowd cheering the whole entire time. Or Futbol fans singing team songs throughout the game. Obviously nothing is going to stop them from blowing.. Besides unless your tv or surround sound is turned up all thew way i don't see how a person really notices over the boring English commentary...

    June 17, 2010 at 09:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sarcasmo

    Vuvuzelas haven't been in every football game by the tens of thousands though, and therein lies the issue. A few hundred isn't the problem.

    June 17, 2010 at 09:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. allie

    it's more than americans complaining... and it's more than just the tv viewers. The players aren't fans of it either..

    June 17, 2010 at 10:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. TV

    Follow up for AL;

    Americans aren't alone in the complaints; considering we're not holding the games in the USA and it's the PLAYERS, OFFICIALS< and FANS AT THE STADIUM who started the complaints.

    And people are not complaining 'all of a sudden'. they've been complaining since every single futbol game i can remember. and hockey, and every other sport the things have shown up at.

    Yes, other terrible things are happening, and these futbol games are one of the few things we get to relax and not be depressed about these things over (like the flash flooding in france and the usa, the oil spill, haiti and the other 40+ countries that STILL NEED HELP btw, etc).

    Leave our eardrums ALONE!

    June 17, 2010 at 10:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. rbmeoe

    I have tried to watch some of the World Cup matches. After about 3 or 4 minutes, I start getting a headache from the constant noise in the background. To me, it sounds like bees. I stopped watching because of those stupid things, I can't image being a fan in the stands or a player on the field. Tylenol sales must be going through the roof!! I'm all for fans getting into a game and cheering, making noise, and supporting their teams, but, these things are nothing more than extreem distractions that greatly take away from the enjoyment of the game. It is really going to affect the casual fan, especially U.S. fans that do not have an ingrained enjoyment and desire to watch soccer. If you want more Americans to learn to enjoy soccer on an international level, GET RID OF THOSE ANNOYING THINGS!!!!!

    June 17, 2010 at 10:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Luke

    People are complainging because to the rest of the world it's annoying. Throughout the game all you hear is the sound of plastic trumpet being mindlessly blown for 90+ minutes. People argue that they are tradition and should be left alone (this point alone can be discussed and disproven) but the true tradition is in original soccer soundtrack of songs and chants. I don't mind the plastic trumpet being used in order to support the chant, I wouldn't even mind it if they were blown in some kind of rhythm or to some tune. It's the lack of coordination and complete mindlessness that causes the instrument to be not only ineffective but annoying. Not to mention players complaining about vuvuzelas pointing out it makes it impossible to communicate on the field. World Cup comes around once every four years, and when it does I want it to be as perfect as it can be. Vuvuzelas are certainly affecting the quality of this entertainment which I think is an issue that should be dealt with, and can be dealt with quite easily.

    Yes there are a lot bigger issues, but as I said World Cup is time when we forget about those and unite to watch the beutiful game. Vuvuzelas are affecting not only are experience but some argue the game itself (communication).

    June 17, 2010 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. CNNRDR

    I want to watch a soccer game. If you think listening to people playing a thousand cheap plastic horns is experiencing "African culture" you are missing the boat. These horns are obnoxious. I watched the USA vs. England game and not one since. Even with that I had to turn the volume down.
    I want to hear the roar of the crowds and songs the fans sing, not some cheap plastic kazoo.

    June 17, 2010 at 11:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Charles

    I've stopped watching the games becuase of these annoying fadish flutes.

    June 17, 2010 at 11:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Chris

    Just because things are different does not make me wrong. Europeans chant, South Americans play drums, US fans yell...everyone has their own ways of attending and participating in games. Do I find the vuvuzelas annoying...yeah, but I'm sure that if I'd grown up with it, I'd find them normal and chanting and singing annoying.
    As much as we all like to cling to our own insular ways and insist that everyone else is wrong, maybe we should try embracing the "world" in World Cup!

    June 17, 2010 at 11:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ

    I love them! I love the World Cup and its party atmosphere–let people have a good time, even if it means swollen lips and being half-deaf after a match! If you've got a modern television set, for goodness sakes, turn on the MUTE button if you're that bothered–I think it's great fun and cause no more damage than those that bring cowbells, various whistles, kazoos, singing, or just stamping feet or clapping hands–people will find a way to make noise even if vuvus are banned!

    Being a participant in the stands is what makes the sport FUN.

    June 17, 2010 at 12:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Andrew

    You know, watching the games, I prefer only one thing. I want PASSIONATE CHANTS!!! Not some Vuvuzelas soundings that muffles the fans' chants.

    What I mean about chants is take this for an example, and imagine it happening in the Fifa match without those annoying vuvuzelas

    OLE OLE OLE! OLE OLE OLE HA! OLE OLE OLE

    or U-S-A, U-S-A! and so forth.

    June 17, 2010 at 12:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jim

    Americans can't stop complaining about everything. You are just a bunch of ethnocentric rednecks!

    June 17, 2010 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Peter McLaughlin

    A lot of people are complaining about the vuvuzelas, but suppose the world cup tournament was in England or Brazil and people were complaining about the singing and cheering and wanted that stopped or complaining about the samba music and wanted that stopped. It sounds like a crazy request doesn't it. The same for getting rid of the vuvuzelas. One mans meat is another mans poison. Try earplugs or turn the sound off. Soccer is easy to follow without the sound. Lets be tolerant of other fans ways of enjoying the games. It only comes around every 4 years. The players that are complaining should be concentrating on the game instead of the horns.

    June 17, 2010 at 13:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. el triguenyo

    i like the vuvuzelas, if it affects the games, then thats part of playing the WC in different places around the world, just like altitude of the stadium could affect it as well, thats just part of it

    June 17, 2010 at 13:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. chancie

    How many more common sense stories is CNN Health going to write? This is getting stupid.

    June 17, 2010 at 13:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Tony

    While it is true that like most people from the US, I have never been a soccer fan. But I said "Okay, it's the World Cup and I want to learn so that I can be more globally minded". Unfortunately the sound of the all the vuvuzelas makes it hard for me to hear the rulings and the strategy being used on the field. For me, all I see is people run around kicking a ball and there is this loud din in the background. I might as well be watching some stupid reality show - that means nothing to watch.

    Sorry soccer fans about your vuvuzelas - but make it so those who don't understand the game can learn.

    June 17, 2010 at 13:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Milo

    What it will eventually come down to is the money. At the next World Cup, will the game's sponsors make more money by banning the noisemakers (add more international customers, subtract bad publicity), or by allowing them (reduced international audience)? The effects it has directly on the event (aesthetic music, cheering, player communication) will be secondary concerns.

    June 17, 2010 at 13:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. ginalee

    If I had been planning this trip for a year and spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get to South Africa for the games and then have to face this at every game...I would ask for my money back. Think of all the fan(atic)s followers who are so disappointed in these games...not to mention the teams.

    South Africa will probably never be voted to host the WC in the future.

    June 17, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. name

    People are complaining about the vuvazela's now more than ever before because awareness of the instrument is at an all time high. People have been asking all over the internet, what is that infernal sound at the WC games? They got their answer thru Twitter, FB, Google, etc. More Americans are watching the WC now.

    June 17, 2010 at 14:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Joe Canadian

    Hey, every country has their annoying attributes. At Canucks games, people blow the damn vuvu's and yes they are annoying. At Brazil's WC games, they usually have umpteen drummers and dancers....every tried watching a game while beside a guy who is pounding a drum for 90 minutes? The Brits have hooligans and the U.S. has loud obnoxious drunks.

    We all have some trait that pisses off the other guy – get over it. Unless the players demand that it be stopped then it is just as annoying as any one of a number of traits that are out there.

    June 17, 2010 at 14:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Suzanne

    I played the frickin' TUBA (I spit on your puny vuvuzelas!) all throughout high school and college, practiced for hours, and my lips swelled – but apart from chapping occasionally (during the cold marching band season) they were fine because I was taught how to properly buzz the mouthpiece – unlike your average hooligan honking into something that sounds like an angry hornet.

    If people want to make noise during a footie match, they should perhaps choose a noisemaker that's a little less sophisticated and doesn't require them to have good embouchure!!

    June 17, 2010 at 15:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. hillbilleter

    This is a cultural issue. Each culture has its own ways of celebrating, and many are counter to good health advise, and this is theirs. Everyone else should deal with it.

    June 17, 2010 at 15:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Philip

    I rather hear Vuvuzelas than American commentators. They have no clue about soccer they think they are describing Football or Baseball.

    June 17, 2010 at 16:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. cindy

    Why do people want to hear such an annoying noise? Shouldn't cheering alone be enough? Let's ban everything that is annoying. LET'S BAN KIDS. I HATE KIDS.

    June 17, 2010 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. The Rebel Philosopher

    these instruments are not new to soccer. I"ve heard them at games throughout the CONCACAF region when I watch them on FSC or FSE. While I prefer singing and other instruments, the horns have now become a staple of soccer in certain parts.

    June 17, 2010 at 17:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Jim

    It is refreshing to see and hear World Cup spectators from many nations, not only South Africa, really enjoying themselves at the matches with many blowing vuvuzelas. Even Japanese fans have been blowing them to support their team. On U.S TV, the noise is filtered and there is no problem hearing the commentators. In person at the playing venues the noise may be quite loud, but a pair of $3.00 ear plugs will reduce that considerably. Personally, vuvuzelas are far less objectionable than the inappropriate and irrelevant singing of hymns by fans which occurs in some Western countries. Long live vuvuzelas!

    June 17, 2010 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. fanGirl

    I agree with SilentBoy741 coment, this can be a very good new American slang, now I can say to my friends that I really like Gerard Buttler to blow my vuvuzuela the times he likes without complains!

    June 17, 2010 at 18:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Nathan Sokalski

    I'm actually kind of surprised that these things are even legal. If they can cause these kinds of hearing problems to other fans and players, they shouldn't even allow people to play them in the stadiums. I was never a big sports fan anyway, so I'm never going to end up going to any of these games anyway, but if I was a sports fan, I'd probably end up changing my mind and not going just to save my hearing. Aren't sports fans supposed to go to watch the game? It sounds to me like a lot of these people just want to exercise their mouths by blowing a horn for the whole game!

    June 17, 2010 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. mary

    Surely if the key people like the players are complaining about vuvuzela's, then they should be completely be banned.I am not in south africa but the noise is too much than any other world cup such that i cannot here the commentators on T.V.How i would wish they are banned or at list reduced in the play field.

    June 18, 2010 at 05:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Tom

    They have been around, and a few of them are ok... the problem is a few hundreds or thousands!!

    June 18, 2010 at 08:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. El Flaco

    I tried to watch the soccer matches, but I was continuously distracted by the grass growing on the field. That made it hard to concentrate on the game.

    June 18, 2010 at 08:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. mark

    The vuvazelas suck. I have yet to listen to any game. Swollen lips, most of the folks blowing the silly things have huge lips already.

    June 18, 2010 at 08:50 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Jimmy

    This just proves how boring soccer really is. The biggest topic of conversation during the World Cup? Horns! What else is there? Goals? Scoring? This has to be the crappiest sport to watch, right after golf and bowling.

    June 18, 2010 at 08:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Amber

    The article reads that vuvuzelas.. swell lips... ? Am I the only one laughing at this? vuvuzelas... lips...

    June 18, 2010 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. CHALI TRESFORD

    whats up CNN. leave vuvuzelas alone.

    June 18, 2010 at 09:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. chicagoK

    The noise devices should be used around CNN studios. It would be very pleasant to drown out the truth terrorists in the studio!

    June 18, 2010 at 09:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Dave 28

    My wife and I were watching a match the other nite and we had to change the channel because that noise was really irritating . We were wondering what those things were and now we know. No futbol for us I suppose.

    June 18, 2010 at 09:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. J.R.

    This article is a waste of space.

    June 18, 2010 at 09:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Dempsy

    The sound is annoying, but it is part of the South African spirit....

    June 18, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Eligio

    AL, you're an xenophobic idiot.

    Why mention the US? Every other country in the tournament has complained, as have their fans trying to enjoy the match whether in the stadium or on TV.

    The US loves soccer, it's one of the most popular school sports and also a popular travel sport with 10's of thousands club teams competing locally, regionally, nationally and internationally at THEIR OWN expense, no sponsorship.

    You totally miss the point of the article, it's about:

    1) Health, i.e. hearing, communicable respiratory infections, etc
    2) Courtesy, to quote the article "people pick up vuvuzelas and let out a long wail for no reason at all"

    Why should we be forced to mute the TV? Part of the enjoyment of watching the match on TV is listening to the commentators. Your comment to the contrary is another example of rudeness.

    You are correct about all the problems you mentioned; so let us be happy and have some small pleasure watching the matches without the the obnoxious wailing in the background.

    Yes, you have the right to blow your horn. But your right to blow your horn ends where ones right to health and tranquility begins (if your even smart enough to understand the layered message)

    Finally, perhaps another health consequence related to the vuvuzela is diminished mental capacity, as you are an obvious example.

    June 18, 2010 at 09:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. HH

    Every football World cup has it own flavor. Today is vuvuzelas. Some love it some hate it. I just ignore it. After July 11 nobody will remember it. In 4 year will be carnival sound and Brazilians hip.

    June 18, 2010 at 09:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Sam

    Let Africa have there fun good grief. What if tail gating was the complaint or that verbal chanting that goes on or better yet when they break out in fights.

    I've been watching and it hasn't bother me one bit I enjoy seeing the enthusiasm of the people

    June 18, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
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