Last week Chris Goldscheider won a landmark case for damage to his hearing caused by loud noise. Mr Goldscheider suffered “acoustic shock” as a result of being exposed to noise levels of in excess of 130 decibels, equivalent to that of a jet engine whilst playing a viola in the Royal Opera House.
This case is different to the hundreds of other Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) cases Ison Harrison solicitors are used to dealing with only because of the medical condition caused. It is reported that this is the first time Acoustic Shock has been recognised as a condition to be compensated for by the court. One of Mr Goldscheider’s symptoms, unlike classic NIHL, is the amplification of ordinary sounds, such as the noise of his new-born baby daughter crying which caused him noise induced vertigo forcing him to remain in bed for 3 weeks. He has to wear hearing protection for most normal activities, such as preparing food.
In September 2012 Mr Goldscheider was playing his viola in rehearsal in the orchestra pit at the Royal Opera House. He was playing directly in front of an 18 strong brass section, and was wearing hearing plugs throughout. Although the ear plugs reduced the sound he was exposed to they did not dampen the sounds, which reached in excess of 130 decibels, to be low safe level, thereby he was exposed to damaging sound for over 3 hours of rehearsal.
It was recognised many years ago that being exposed to high levels of noise can damage hearing, and as the years have progressed employers have had to show that they are doing more to protect their employees against damage to hearing caused through loud noise. In 2008 the existing regulations protecting workers in the music and entertainment industry from exposure to excessive noise were replaced by the Control of Noise at Work Regulations 2005. For other industries these Regulations have been in force since April 2006, however the music industry was given a 2 year transitional period.
The main differences in the 2005 Noise Regulations to those preceding it are:
(a) the two action values for daily noise exposure have been reduced by 5 dB to 85 dB and 80 dB. For each of the action levels employers must provide a degree of information, instruction and training to employees on the risks associated with loud noise and the use of hearing protection and provide various preventative measures to protect their employees.
(b) there are now two action values for peak noise at 135 dB and 137 dB;
(c) there are new exposure limit values of 87 dB (daily exposure) and 140 dB (peak noise) which take into account the effect of wearing hearing protection and which must not be exceeded; So an employee cannot be exposed to noise levels for 8 hours per day in excess of 87 dB without the use of hearing protection and the hearing protection used must cause the exposure to be brought to below this level. Employees must not be exposed to one-off sounds of in excess of 140 dB without the use of hearing protection and the hearing protection used must cause the exposure to be brought to below this level
(d) there is a specific requirement to provide health surveillance where there is a risk to health.
In the Chris Goldscheider case Mrs Justice Nicola Davies commented that there were clear breaches of the 2015 Regulations. There was an inadequate risk assessment followed by a failure to undertake any monitoring of noise, even after complaints about the level of noise had been made.
We now have to wait to see if the case is appealed to the Court of Appeal.
Although Mr Goldscheider’s hearing problems seem to have been caused as a result of a particular event, the majority of our Noise Induced Hearing Loss clients have been exposed to loud noise at work over a number of years, and this was usually as a result of exposure many years ago. Although you may have worked in a loud environment many years ago, you may not have realised you had a hearing problem until recently. This is because all of our hearing worsens as we get older. The damage to your hearing may not have been realised until recently as you have the added factor of age associated hearing loss.
If you have realised that you have hearing loss, or, indeed, acoustic shock, in the last 3 years and you previously worked in a loud environment our lawyers at Ison Harrison will be able to advise you on the prospects of seeking compensation for your injuries.
Call our Personal Injury team on 0113 284 5000 for a free confidential consultation.