Musician's Landmark Win: Orchestra Ruined My Hearing

Viola player sues Royal Opera House over too-loud rehearsal of Wagner
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 29, 2018 9:10 AM CDT
   (Getty/Furtseff)

(Newser) – A viola player in Britain has won an unusual legal case against the Royal Opera House seen as groundbreaking in the music industry. Chris Goldscheider says he got blasted so loudly by the brass section during a 2012 rehearsal that it permanently wrecked his hearing and ended his music career, reports the BBC. On Wednesday, Britain's High Court of Justice agreed the 45-year-old suffered "acoustic shock" during the rehearsal of Wagner's Die Walkure and is entitled to damages. Goldscheider is asking for about $1 million in lost wages; the court will decide the amount later. The Royal Opera House, for its part, is skeptical that the relatively new concept of acoustic shock even exists and maintains that Goldscheider instead developed something called Meniere's disease that explains his vertigo, nausea, and inability to endure noises, per the Guardian.

"This is the first time that the court has explored the music industry’s legal obligations towards the hearing of musicians, and the first time that acoustic shock has been recognized as a compensatable condition by the court," says Goldscheider's attorney. That particular piece by Wagner is notoriously loud, and Goldscheider had the misfortune of sitting directly in front of the brass section, explains the Washington Post. At one point, the volume reached more than 130 decibels, the equivalent of a jet engine a mere 100 feet away. Goldscheider had been wearing orchestra-supplied ear plugs, but he says they weren't enough to protect him from the booming trumpets, horns, and trombones, with the principal trumpet singled out as the main villain. He quit the music business for good in 2014 and says he had to move his family to the country to avoid city noises. (Read more hearing loss stories.)

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