Defective 3M Military Earplugs

A courageous whistleblower has come forward saying 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs that caused hearing loss to hundreds of thousands of military personnel. Instead of denying it, the company agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve the allegations. These allegations are that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) to the United States military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.

About 3M Defective Earplugs

Over the years between 2003 and 2015 3M and Aearo Technologies supplied a maximum of 2.2 million earplugs to the US military, to use in war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan, as an exclusive supplier for the US military for earplugs. The product is only sold to the military.

3M designed the defective CAEv2 earplugs for armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan to protect from hearing loss from 2003 to 2015. Marketing told soldiers that they could flip the devices for more protection around gunfire or explosions. These dual-ended earplugs could offer multiple safety options to protect them. When worn in the “closed” or “blocked” mode, the plugs blocked sound in the fashion of conventional earplugs.   When flipped to the yellow end, which is the “open” or “unblocked” position, the ear protection greatly reduces intense impulse sounds on the battlefield. Plus, the open mode would not obstruct quieter noises like approaching combatants or communication from comrades.  3M insisted that these earplugs were the answer to protecting hearing while still being able to perform necessary duties on the battlefield.

Military Hearing Loss

Under the Qui Tam False Claims Act, a whistleblower followed suit against 3M when his complaints about the earplugs not being long enough to permit adequate insertion into certain soldiers’ ears went dismissed. This faulty design prevented the earplugs from maintaining a tight fit.  The earplugs would subtlely dislodge, so the military users were unaware that they had little or no protection.  The short stem can be difficult to plug deeply into the ear canal for some users. This causes a poor fit.  Also, if a soldier wears the earplugs as instructed, it can fold back and loosens its seal with the ear. Both ends experience this defect. The whistleblower notified 3M of the defect in 2000.

3M may have manipulated test results to deceive the government into believing the earplugs complied with mandatory government specifications.  Although the company previously certified their earplugs met Salient Characteristics of Medical Procurement Item Description of Solicitation No. SP0200-06-R-4202 to submit a bid. However, the company knew at the time that their earplugs have defects.

Foreign Conflicts That Used These Earplugs

You may not even have realized that you used these earplugs. The government issued millions of service members with Combat Arms Earplugs while engaging in foreign conflicts. These engagements were:

  • The Iraq War
  • War in Afghanistan
  • Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
  • The war in North-West Pakistan (part of War on Terror)
  • War in Somalia
  • Intervention in Libya (2011- part of Libyan Crisis)
  • American-led intervention in Iraq (2014 – 2017)
  • American-led intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
  • Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
  • American Intervention in Libya (2015 to present)

3M Defective Earplugs Injuries

The injuries occurring from the 3M defective earplugs include partial or total hearing loss, buzzing or ringing in the ears, or tinnitus from habitual loud noises.  Hearing loss and tinnitus constitute the most common form of service-connected disability among U.S. veterans.  The harm suffered has a dramatic impact on the lives of veterans, because there is no cure for tinnitus. Plus, these earplugs compounded the injuries since, in 2014, almost 1 million veterans received disability benefits for hearing impairment. This doesn’t include the 1.3 million on disability compensation for tinnitus. Further, James Henry with the VA Portland Healthcare System has indicated that more than 1.6 million veterans are seeking medical care for severe, ongoing tinnitus. This poses challenges for veterans because doctors have a great difficulty diagnosing the condition.

Tinnitus

Tinnitus is intermittent or continuous ringing, hissing, roaring, buzzing or clicking in the ears. This disturbance can vary in volume levels. However, this is the most common disability among veterans. Extremely damaging levels of sound such as gunfire, aircraft, machinery, explosions, and more damage soldiers’ hearing. Most servicemen and women wear earplugs to help protect their hearing. However, 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms earplugs used by soldiers are ineffective. This left veterans with life-altering consequences, such as difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and in most cases, the condition is permanent.

To Qualify For Compensation

CAEv2 were standard issue in certain branches of the military during foreign conflicts between 2002 and 2016 and may have caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus, and exposed millions more to the risks of hearing damage caused by the allegedly defective earplugs. In order to receive the compensation you deserve, you must:

Have served in the U.S military between 2003 and 2015

Used military issued dual-end earplugs during military service

Have unilateral or bilateral hearing loss

Do not have Waardenburg syndrome, Branchiootorenal syndrome, Stickler syndrome, Usher syndrome, Pendred syndrome, Alport syndrome, Otosclerosis, or Meniere’s disease

Get Justice

The Michael Brady Lynch Firm complex litigation attorneys have more than two decades of experience protecting the rights of the injured. We have helped thousands across the country following an unexpected accident, defective product or personal injury claims. After being injured from negligence or malpractice, we will help you recover any compensation owed. This will help pay for medical expenses and other bills incurred from your injury. Therefore if you or a loved one experienced partial or total hearing loss, buzzing in the ears or tinnitus after serving in a foreign conflict and wearing defective earplugs, call us today. Our consultations are completely free. Let’s fight for justice together.

Learn More

Standard Issue Military Earplugs Caused Hearing Problems

Military Veteran: Tinnitus May Be 3M’s Fault

3M Defective Earplugs Cause Military Hearing Loss

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