“Who can I blame for my hearing loss?” seems like the latest trend in lawsuits.
Everyone knows noise can be maddening, affect cognitive function, and raise heartrate. In addition, everyone knows, including musicians, that loud noise can cause irreversible hearing damage.
Yet a violist in the U.K’s Royal Opera House orchestra sued, and won, a case in the High Court of Justice, against the orchestra for damages of “acoustic shock” and hearing loss.
“I think this is bogus,” said Pittsburgh violinist, Charles Stegeman. “I believe it’s an individual’s responsibility to take care of their own body.”
Most orchestras around the world recommend annual hearing checks and supply high fidelity musician’s earplugs to their musicians. However, many musicians do not want to take hearing tests “on the record” for fear of losing their job, and don’t like wearing earplugs because they interfere with their ability to perform.
Hearing loss is a function of how loud and for how long. All instruments exceed the acceptable noise level, at peak moments, mandated by OSHA. However, a momentary sound exceeding acceptable sound levels is unlikely to cause any damage.
Whether it’s the symphony orchestra, jazz bands, garage or rock bands, musicians are most at risk for hearing loss from noise because of the proximity of their ears to (their own, and other), various instruments. The proximity, loudness, and length of time professionals’ play and practice are the determining factors and cause of hearing loss.
Musicians know the risks. Musicians know the facts. Musicians made their own choice.
Now they are blaming their orchestra.