Can’t hear you

With the final match of the 2010 World Cup finals about to start in a few minutes, I decided to post a bit about those annoying little stadium horns called vuvuzelas. Kroor already wrote a post on this and I was wondering what is it about these horns that irritate people. I used to mute the television while watching the matches to prevent further hearing loss (My hearing is bad as it is.)

A standard vuvuzela is tuned roughly to B flat below middle C and has a frequency similar to speech tones. I found the following bit of info on wiki.

Notch filtering, an audio filtration technique, is proposed to reduce the vuvuzela sound in broadcasts and increase clarity of commentary audio. The vuvuzela produces notes at a frequency of approximately 235 Hz and its first partial at 465 Hz. However, this filtration technique affects the clarity of commentary audio. The publication of adaptive filters by universities and organisations address this issue by preserving the amplitude and clarity of the commentators’ voices and crowd noise. Such filtration techniques have been adopted by some cable television providers.

Various vuvuzela filters are available in the market. But Trevor Cox, the president of the Institute of Acoustics (UK) and professor of acoustics at Salford University suspects the  efficacy  of these “notch out”  gadgets.

I’m looking at its wave patterns and there are at least six very strong harmonics in there. It would sound really horrible to notch these out – if one coincides with the vowel sound e, you won’t be able to hear the –es in the commentary. It would sound unnatural. It’s physically impossible to play a sound to cancel out another sound coming from your television. It sounds constant, but the noise is too random to be cancelled out.

So blocking the sound is out of the question as it disrupts commentary. Sound engineers in broadcasting stations have been advised to dip certain frequencies when the massed horns are blowing particularly loudly.

Get used to it. It’s a part of African  footballing culture. says FIFA president Sepp Blatter. This is the same dimwit who had earlier announced that technology has no place in football (Yeah that helps! Ask any England or Mexican fan what they think about that.)

Hearing loss is permanent you see, as the hair cells in the inner ear won’t regenerate. This is why your sense of hearing deteriorates as you grow old. We apparently know very little about how hearing works. We for instance don’t exactly know how the hair cells transform acoustic waves into neural signals which we interpret as sound (source).

Are vuvuzelas going to be banned in future matches? I don’t know. But I really don’t want to watch football matches in mute. Do you?

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