A viola player has won a landmark High Court ruling against the Royal Opera House.
Chris Goldscheider suffered a life-changing hearing injury at a rehearsal of Wagner’s opera Die Walkure in September 2012.
He was sitting directly in front of the brass section in the orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House. During the rehearsal the noise levels exceeded 130 decibels, irreversibly damaging his hearing.
It is the first time a judge has scrutinised the music industry’s legal obligations towards musicians’ hearing. The ruling has huge implications for the industry and the health and safety of musicians.
It is also the first time ‘acoustic shock’ has been recognised as a condition which can be compensated by a court.
The Royal Opera House said it was “surprised and disappointed” by the judgment.
Mr Goldscheider claimed damages for acoustic shock, a condition with symptoms including tinnitus, hyperacusis and dizziness.
He told the BBC that this condition means that normal sounds are incredibly painful.
Mr Goldscheider now has to wear ear defenders to carry out everyday household tasks such as preparing food.
He is also unable to listen to his 18-year-old son Ben – an outstanding French horn player.
The Royal Opera House argued that acoustic shock does not exist and that if it did, Mr Goldscheider did not have it.
It said he had developed a natural hearing condition, known as Meniere’s disease, at exactly the same time as the loud, high intensity noise burst behind his right ear.
However, Mrs Justice Nicola Davies took a different view. She said: “I regard the defendant’s contention that Meniere’s disease developed at the rehearsal as stretching the concept of coincidence too far.”
Mr Goldscheider left the Royal Opera House in July 2014 as a result of his injuries.
Read full story here.