Landmark Acoustic Shock Ruling for Royal Opera House Musician

Conductor directing symphony orchestra with performers on background, hands close-up.

A viola player, who had suffered a life altering hearing injury, alleged to be caused by exposure to excessive noise during a rehearsal of the Royal Opera House Orchestra, has won a landmark decision in the High Court in London yesterday.

Mr Chris Goldscheider, represented by Fry Law, alleges that he had suffered with acoustic shock as a result of a rehearsal held on Saturday 1 September 2012 where the Claimant was located directly in front of the brass section of the orchestra.

The Claimant alleges that he suffers as a result, a hearing loss in the right ear, which came on straight away, such that he finds it difficult hearing in noisy environments and he now avoids such places as he was unable to hold conversation. The Claimant further alleged a sensitivity to sound in his right ear; this has not improved since the exposure. Furthermore the Claimant described the onset of a ‘pylon noise’ which he experienced in both ears worse in the left and this can disrupt his sleep. Finally the Claimant alleges incident if dizziness and nausea for the first six months.

It had been found that during the rehearsal the Claimant had been exposed to 130 decibels of noise which is similar to that of a jet engine. As a result his hearing is alleged to have been irreversibly damaged.

It was found by the Court’s that this level of noise, despite the Claimant being provided hearing protection, was in breach of their legal duty set out in the 2005 Control of Noise at Work Regulations which also applies to entertainment and music industries coming into force at a slightly later date in 2008. The 2005 regulations essentially state that any noise level above 85d decibels necessitate the need for personal protective equipment and that a person should not be exposure to a noise level above a peak sound pressure of between 135 decibels to 140 decibels.

It was further found by the Court that the noise levels in that afternoon performance were sufficient to have caused acoustic shock to the Claimant. It was alleged by the Defendant during the proceedings that the Claimant had contributed to the alleged injury by not simply leaving the rehearsal once he realised there was an issue with the sound levels. The Court found, the Claimant being a professional musician, would not have left in such a manner and it could not be shown that leaving the rehearsal once already exposed, would have reduced the Claimant’s alleged injury. The Claimant was therefore ground not to be negligent.

The Court, having determined the issues and found in favour of the Claimant determined that the damage to be awarded to the Claimant determined at a later date. It is understood that the Claimant claims £750,000 for in relation the injury and the loss of earnings which have resulted from the injury.

The important issues to take away from this case is that it is becoming more apparent that industries, previously unconcerned with the Noise at Work Regulations,  mainly in entertainment and music, are now having to become aware of their duties to protect their employees from noise. It may be the case, that as a result of this case, that the public and employees in these sectors become aware of the exposure they have faced to loud noise and consider brining and action for compensation as a result.

If you have been exposed to excessive noise in a working environment, similar to that of the Claimant, or in another environment, since 1963 there is potential that you may have suffered with hearing loss as a result. Furthermore if you have been exposure to a short burst of extremely excessive noise and suffered with any of the above symptoms you may be able to claim compensation as a result.

At Michael Lewin Solicitors we have a dedicated industrial disease team who have a mound of experience in dealing with both hearing loss and acoustic shock cases.

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