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During the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) study, researchers could not get the dual earplug to reach the military requirement of 22-decibel noise cancellation. The only way researchers could achieve it was by folding the device in a certain way before ear canal insertion. Yet, this information was never given to the military.

About 3M Defective Dual Earplugs

Dual EarplugsOver the years between 2003 and 2015 3M and Aearo Technologies supplied a maximum of 2.2 million dual 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.

Manipulated Dual Earplug Study

Before the dual-ended earplugs, the military used two sets of earplugs. Therefore, 3M decided to alleviate this need by creating the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2). However, during testing, researchers couldn’t get the earplugs to block noise at 22 decibels. The earplugs only performed at a 10.9-decibel rating. The researchers discovered that if they folded back the third flange of the earplug in a specific manner than the earplug could then reach the 22-decibel noise cancellation. However, 3M never gave this information to the military. The company included it not on any warning material but a fit guide. Yet, this fit guide never made it to the U.S. military services.

Whistleblower Exposes Defective Earplugs

Moldex-Metric, Inc., a 3M competitor, tried to create their own dual ended earplugs. However, 3M sued the company for patent infringement, which later was dismissed. Then, Moldex upon developing their own ear protection realized that 3M manipulated study data and provided improper usage instruction. Therefore the company filed suit under the Qui Tam False Claims Act. The suit against 3M details that the earplugs were not long enough to permit adequate insertion into the ear. 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.
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 had defects. Thus, 3M caused thousands of brave military personnel to suffer lifetime hearing loss or tinnitus.

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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 the military and wearing defective earplugs, call us today. Our consultations are completely free. Let’s fight for justice together.

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