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From 2003-2015, the standard issue 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) given to servicemen and women did not protect them. 3M knowingly sold faulty earplugs to the U.S. government. Now, the device has caused hundreds of thousands of soldiers to experience hearing problems.

About Defective Military Earplugs


3M designed the defective military 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.

Hearing Loss

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.

Defective Military Earplugs Injuries

The injuries occurring from the 3M defective military 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.

Get Justice

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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 military service, call us today. Our consultations are completely free. Let’s fight for justice together.

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