UK judge: violist can pursue hearing-loss claim over loud Wagner rendition

Noting that Britain’s 2006 Noise at Work Regulations “recognize no distinction as between a factory and an opera house,” a British judge has approved the claim of a violist for the Royal Opera House Covent Garden who says he suffered hearing loss from the loudness of the close-by brass section during a rehearsal of Die Walküre, part of Wagner’s Ring Cycle. Damages are yet to be determined; he is seeking £750,000. [Mark Savage, BBC] The opera house argued that it had gone as far as a reasonable employer to reduce the risks of loudness, including issuing ear protection which he was using, and that his condition “had in fact been the result of his coincidentally developing Meniere’s disease at around the same time.” [Damien Gayle, Guardian] Earlier on the United Kingdom regulations on sound in the workplace here (police dogs’ barking, with links to many other posts), etc., and related here and here on European orchestra noise regs.

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  • Just for perspective, the US military went through this problem back in the 80s and I’m sure the UK military has also. So many service members were claiming disability for hearing loss that it was getting out of hand. That’s a disability that’s easy to fake and/or exaggerate, but regardless if the claims were real or not, they were skyrocketing as word spread about how easy it was to claim. That started a push in the services to issue earplugs to everyone (in some places, it even became part of the uniform). Now it’s very difficult to get VA compensation for hearing loss. Their reasoning is “we gave you hearing protection, we ordered you to wear it, so barring extraordinary circumstances, any hearing loss is your own fault” (I’m paraphrasing).