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Vuvuzelas blamed for flus, hearing loss, stray pets

Those tuneless plastic horns causing some headaches at the World Cup could be leading to other problems as well, researchers warn. But is the criticism overblown?

Just as the World Cup was getting underway last week, the Associated Press ran a story about vuvuzela horns that probably didn't register with most people outside of South Africa.

It does now.

These tuneless plastic horns are found to emit a sound--make that noise--equivalent to 127 decibels, according to a study issued by the hearing aid manufacturer Phonak. (If you want to hear a sound sample, click here. For the sake of comparison, Phonak noted that the sound from a drum was 122 decibels, while that of a referee's whistle came in at 121.8 decibels.

Wikimedia Commons

According to Phonak, "extended exposure" at 85 decibels puts a listener at risk of suffering permanent noise-induced hearing loss. Separately, a couple of researchers from the University of Pretoria, Professor James Hall and Dirk Koekemoer, found that vuvuzelas negatively affect hearing when people get exposed to the sound over a period of time.

As a football fan trying to concentrate on the games, I must confess that I find the vuvuzela to be the worst accompaniment to a sporting event since the invention of the "wave." But is the criticism going overboard? A doctor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine recently warned that the horn could also play a big part in spreading colds and flu (we're currently in the middle of South Africa's flu season).

Even the SPCA is jumping in, warning that it expects to be tending to more frightened pets who bolt their homes after hearing the vuvuzela.

So far, World Cup organizers have rejected a stadium ban on the horns. But published reports suggest that policy might change if the din--no pun intended--if the criticism keeps up.

This story originally appeared on CBSNews.com.