The recent landmark case Goldscheider v the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation [2018] EWHC 687 (QB)

23 August 2018

The recent landmark case Goldscheider v the Royal Opera House Covent Garden Foundation [2018] EWHC 687 (QB) against the Opera House is a ground breaking case in which the Judge has for the first time considered the legal obligations in the music industry to ensure the musicians hearing is impacted. This case will now no doubt have huge implications on the health and safety surrounding musicians.

The Claimant in this case was a professional orchestral voila player who successfully claimed for damages for acoustic shock, onset by occupational exposure to noise at the High Court.

In this case the Claimant began employment with the Royal Opera House orchestra in 2002. During rehearsals for Wagner’s Die Walkure in September 2012 he was seated in front of the orchestra’s brass section with 18 to 20 brass instrument players when the noise levels exceeded 130 decibels. He had previously performed in orchestras before however;

‘... the sensation from so many brass instruments playing directly behind him, in a confined area, at the same time at different frequencies and volumes, created a wall of sound which was completely different to anything he had previously experienced.

The lack of space and the proximity of the trumpets to the claimant’s ears meant that he was in the brass section’s ‘direct line of fire’. It was excruciatingly loud and painful. His right ear was particularly painful because the principal trumpet was directed at that side of his head’.

It is considered that exposure to 80 decibels of noise for a period of 8 hours per day is tolerable however sounds louder than 80 decibels can cause damage hearing.

Due to the excessive levels of noise he was exposed to during rehearsals the Claimant was unable to return to work in the music field.

The Claimant in this case successfully claimed for acoustic shock on the grounds that the Royal Opera House breached its obligations to protect its employees under common law such as the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. Acoustic shock can lead to symptoms such as headaches, tinnitus, hyperacusis, ear pain, nausea, jaw and neck pain, anxiety, hypersensitivity and hearing loss. The controversial issue surrounding acoustic shock is whether it can result in hearing loss. This has been debated by many experts for my many years.

The issues raised in this case were that the Claimant did not suffer from acoustic shock and the Defendants expert was dismissive of the concept of acoustic shock. The Defendants in this case argued that the Claimant suffered from Meniere’s disease during the time of the rehearsal. The Defendants also argued that there should be a balance between integrity in music and protecting the musicians hearing as there had been no previous reported cases in this field. The Judge in this matter disagreed with the Defendants and granted judgement to the Claimant. The Judge highlighted that he did not find it determinative that there has not been previous reported cases of acoustic shock in this industry. The Judge also added that musicians were also entitled to the protection of the law.

This case is set to have a significant impact on the music industry as this industry has previously found itself exempt from the requirements relating to hearing loss. Many music industries such as the Royal Opera House may now need to assess the policies they have in place surrounding hearing protection and exposure to noise.

Many musicians may suffer from hearing loss/acoustic shock but may not be aware of the potential claims they can submit. This landmark case may now allow those who have suffered to bring a claim for the loss they have suffered as a result of exposure. If you or anyone you know has been exposed to excessive noise during employment and suffers from one or more of the aforementioned symptoms then you may have a claim for Noise Induced Hearing Loss.

At Curtis Law our specialist and experienced team of Industrial Deafness Solicitors can give you free initial advice and hearing tests to help you understand if you have a potential industrial deafness claim. Call our Personal Injury Solicitors for a free consultation on 0800 008 7450 or start a hearing loss claim with us online at