Landmark Ruling For Acoustic Shock

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By Oliviah Rix-Taylor

on Wednesday 4 April 2018


The Case 

Goldscheider, a former viola player for the ROH, suffered permanent and irreversible hearing damage, attributable to a syndrome known as acoustic shock following an orchestral rehearsal.

The symptoms of his acoustic shock include dizziness, tinnitus, and hyperacusis – an extreme sensitivity to noise. Mr. Goldscheider says the damage was incurred during a recital of Wagner’s Die Walkure in which noise levels exceeded 130 decibels. This level of noise is the equivalent of standing 50ft from a jet engine taking off. Goldscheider was sat directly in front of the brass section of the orchestra.

The ROH combated the claim by suggesting that Goldscheider had developed Meniere’s disease at the same time as the rehearsal, as such his symptoms were not related to excessive noise exposure during Wagner’s opera.

The judge ruled in favour of Mr. Goldscheider, saying that the ROH was stretching the notion of coincidence too far by trying to suggest the claimant had developed Meniere’s disease at exactly the same time as the rehearsal.

This is the first time that a court has awarded compensation for acoustic shock as a recognisable condition.

The Control of Noise at Work Regulation 2005, aims to provide guidance for industries with excessive noise levels. The HSE introduced these regulations for consultation in the entertainment and music industries in a bid to protect employees from raised noise levels.

Within the music industry, hearing loss and damage is a real threat and several schemes and organisations are in place to help protect musicians. A study in 2006 found that in Danish orchestras, 27% of musicians suffered hearing loss.

Concert Noise Levels 

An orchestral performance usually resonates within 90-95 dB. In response to the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005, louder pieces, such as Die Walkure may be played less often or staggered with quieter pieces to allow the musician's recovery time.

This is a landmark case because, despite the findings from several studies that musicians do experience hearing loss and damage, this is the first time the music industries legal obligations have been scrutinised. The case has been followed closely by members of the classical music industry and will no doubt have repercussions and shockwaves.

It is important to know and understand your rights regarding protection of your hearing at work. Employers are required by the law to provide adequate hearing protection to their employees when noise levels exceed a certain threshold. If you want to know more about these thresholds then read our resource page here.

Damage to hearing can greatly impact your life. For Chris Goldscheider, he was unable to perform simple tasks such as cooking dinner without wearing ear defenders. He was also unable to listen to his son, an outstanding French Horn player, practice or perform. He also suffered from noise induced vertigo from his newborn daughter's cries and had to remain in bed for weeks.

Hearing damage and hearing loss is a very serious threat to overall well-being and should be treated diligently by employers. If you have suffered hearing loss or hearing damage from your workplace then you are within your rights to make a claim to help compensate for loss, pain, and suffering. Contact Accident Line Direct to receive further advice and support in relation to your hearing loss or damage.

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Accident Line Direct can help you begin your potential claim, get in touch today!