UK Classical musician wins landmark High Court ruling on hearing damage

Viola player Chris Goldscheider has won a landmark case against the Royal Opera House, London in the High Court. He accused the venue of being liable for hearing damage he sustained during a rehearsal six years ago, citing ROH’s possible responsibilities under UK Noise Regulations.

This is the first time that a sufferer of so called ‘acoustic shock’ has been awarded compensation by a court. The ruling could therefore have huge implications for the classical music industry, and the wider music business as a whole.

Goldscheider said that he suffered severe hearing damage during a rehearsal of Wagner’s ‘Die Walkure’ in 2012 after sound levels of the performance reached 130 decibels. He said that he had been left unable to hear sound normally without experiencing pain. As a result he has to wear ear protection to carry out even normal household tasks.

He says that he spent eighteen months attempting to recover unsuccessfully. He eventually left the Royal Opera House in 2014 as a result of his injuries.

The Royal Opera House said that it was “surprised and disappointed” by the ruling. In court, its lawyers had argued that ‘acoustic shock’ does not in fact exist, and that the musician had not suffered hearing damage as a result of the performance. Instead, it was claimed, he had naturally developed Meniere’s disease at the same time as being involved in the rehearsal.

High Court judge Justice Nicola Davies did not agree, saying: “I regard the defendant’s contention that Meniere’s disease developed at the rehearsal as stretching the concept of coincidence too far”.

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