Chris Goldscheider, a renowned violia player, claims his hearing loss was “irreversibly damaged” in 2012 during rehearsals with the Royal Opera House, based in London. He claims the sound of the brass instruments, played by musicians located behind him, peaked at 137 decibels – roughly the sound of a jet engine.
The Royal Opera House denies responsibility, according to the BBC, but reports that approximately one in four of its players suffer from a “hearing illnesses.”
A 2015 survey by Charity Help Musicians UK of musicians working for orchestras in organizations, including the Royal Opera House, discovered a strong correlation between their careers and their hearing health.
(The) survey found that 40.5% of the 692 respondents said they had experienced hearing loss, with 78.3% of these revealing that being a musician was one of the factors that had caused it.
Of those who complained of hearing loss, 75% said they experienced tinnitus and 50% said they had sought professional help as a result. However, 39% said they had not sought help because they thought hearing problems were “unavoidable” in their line of work.
Most orchestras require control measures to protect player’s hearing, according to Sound Advice, which provides specific examples of how schedules, venues and layout of musicians can affect noise levels. It specifically recommends brass sections be elevated, to help project sound over the heads of performers in front of them. It is also recommended that musicians always wear hearing protection and that acoustic screens are used to isolate performers from noisy instruments.
The lawsuit is still ongoing, according to the BBC.
Read more about how music can affect your hearing and how musicians can prevent hearing damage.