I n 2018 came an unprecedented court
ruling in the UK that may eventually
impact arts venues around the world.
The case of viola player Christopher
Goldscheider versus the Royal Opera
House was the first major test in court of
the live music industry’s duty to do what is
necessary to protect employees’ hearing –
in this case under the UK’s Control of Noise
at Work regulations.
In 2012, Goldscheider was suddenly
stricken with acoustic shock – a condition
with symptoms including tinnitus, hyperacusis
and dizziness – after being exposed to noise
levels exceeding 130dB during a rehearsal for
Wagner’s Die Walküre. Goldscheider argued
that his hearing was irreversibly damaged, and
that he now must wear ear protection to carry
out even relatively quiet everyday household
tasks, such as preparing food.
The Royal Opera House’s legal team had
argued that acoustic shock is not an established
medical condition, and such symptoms can
develop spontaneously. But the judge sided
with Goldscheider, and earlier in 2019 the
High Court of Justice rejected the Royal
Opera House’s appeal.
“It’s a major tremor,” says Bob Essert,
co-founder of Sound Space Vision, a UK-based
theatre planning and acoustics consulting firm.
“People have been working on this issue for
over a decade, with researchers monitoring
various arts companies, orchestras and opera
companies in Europe, the USA and Australia,
monitoring and doing what they could, trying
solutions to reduce levels. They don’t all have
AUDITORIA 2020 VOLUME ONE 17