The claimant, a professional viola player at the Royal Opera House, was found to have suffered acoustic shock whilst sitting in front of the brass section of the orchestra during a rehearsal of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. It was found he was exposed to noise levels which created a risk to and resulting injury of his hearing which prevented his return to music.

The court cited a number of occupational health and safety laws. It also examined the question whether there is such a thing as acoustic shock. The claimant had been sitting in front of the brass section which comprised 18 brass instruments which made an overwhelming noise which was not masked by the earplugs he was given.

There was some controversy about whether acoustic shock exists. The court found that the noise levels at the rehearsal were within the range identified as causing acoustic shock which led to the injury which the claimant sustained and to the symptoms which he developed. The damages are still to be assessed.

The case is Goldscheider v The Royal Operate House Covent Garden Foundation. It is a lengthy judgment dealing extensively with the various issues including acoustic shock and the noise levels of Wagner’s music.