Stewart|Phelps|Wood law firm’s personal injury attorneys are assisting both active-duty military personnel and veterans who suffered major hearing damage after wearing defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs (Version 2 – CAEv2) and looking to file a lawsuit. If you used 3M earplugs while serving in the United States military between 2003 and 2015, you could be entitled to compensation.

The 3M Company is a Minnesota-based multinational conglomerate that supplied the United States military with earplugs for use by its soldiers in combat for protecting their hearing. The earplugs were designed by 3M to block out loud noises and blasts associated with testing on bases and actual combat while still allowing soldiers to hear important orders.

3M, however, did not inform the United States government that some of the earplugs were actually faulty, which may have led to a partial or complete hearing in members of the military. It is our firm belief that both active-duty military personnel and veterans alike should be compensated for their suffering after using defective plugs.

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Why Are the Earplugs Believed to Cause Harm?

Thousands of military members in conflict areas such as Iraq and Afghanistan used the Combat Arms Earplugs (dual-ended) by 3M from 2003 to 2015, which may have led to partial or full hearing loss, or tinnitus.

The earplugs had been designed to block out sounds of explosions as well as loud noises while still allowing soldiers to freely communicate with one another. The designer of the earplugs was Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired back in 2008.

In 2018, a whistleblower stepped forward and warned of the design flaw. Upon investigation of the claim by the United States Department of Justice, 3M paid the federal government $9.1 million to resolve the allegations that 3M was aware of the flaw in the earplugs but still supplied them anyway. Fortunately, the earplugs are currently discontinued.

How Do the Earplugs Cause Harm?

The product allegedly has a flaw in its design centered on the fact that earplugs are symmetrical. The standard fitting instructions that were provided to military personnel could mean that the earplugs loosen thus allowing sound to enter the ear thus causing damage to the wearer’s hearing. The result was that some military personnel and veterans ended up experiencing ringing in their ears or partial or total hearing loss.

How Can You File a 3M Earplugs Lawsuit?

Potential plaintiffs that want to be part of the lawsuit must first have been diagnosed with tinnitus by a doctor around the time they were discharged from military service and/or a loss of hearing that resulted in an impairment rating with the United States Department of Veteran Affairs. The relevant time of service is between 2003 and 2015. Eligible active military personnel and veterans could be entitled to compensation for their loss of hearing.

A lawyer meeting with a man regarding a 3M earplug lawsuit.

What Are the Earplugs That Have Been Linked to Hearing Issues?

The Combat Arms Earplugs (dual-ended) were made by 3M. Service members that used the plugs from 2003 to 2015 were exposed to the possibility of suffering from partial or complete hearing loss. According to reports from soldiers as well as an investigation, the earplugs were too short to maintain a snug fit inside the ear of the wearer, which means that sounds were able to surpass the earplugs thus putting the user at risk for hearing damage.

How Were 3M Earplugs Supposed to Work?

The dual-ended devices by 3M were intended to be inserted in 1 of 2 ways. Inserted in one direction, they were designed to protect a soldier’s hearing from very loud and sustained noises such as gunfire, aircraft, tanks, heavy equipment, and roadside bombs. Inserted the other way, the plugs were supposed to muffle explosive ordnance or artillery fire sounds.

The earplugs had been provided on contract with their general purpose being hearing protection, but veterans have started coming forward with arguments that the company didn’t accurately represent the effectiveness of the devices, didn’t disclose their defects, and exposed military personnel to risks of severe hearing loss.

What Problems Were Reported By Soldiers?

The Combat Arms Earplugs that 3M supplied were allegedly too short to effectively fit the human ear. That meant that the devices became too loose over time to protect against hearing damage. Tinnitus, problems with balance, and permanent hearing loss are some of the long-term damage reported by users.

Military personnel and veterans alike believe that the manufacturer led both soldiers and the government to believe that their hearing was protected from most potential damage during service or training when it actually was not.

What is Military Hearing Loss or Tinnitus?

One of the most commonly reported problems by service members is hearing loss. Tinnitus is a condition that’s marked by buzzing, hissing, or ringing sounds in the ears. Affected persons will have a hard time hearing someone speaking from just 3 feet away.

A man experiencing ear pain from tinnitus.

The United States Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that up to 2.7 million veterans are currently receiving military disability for hearing loss or tinnitus associated with their service. Tinnitus is such a common problem reported by people that have served that some who have been diagnosed might not actually realize that their loss of hearing could be linked to defective earplugs by 3M.

How Many Earplugs Did 3M Supply Under the Contract?

Over 15,000 packages of the Earplugs that contained 50 pairs in each, were provided every year under a contract with the Department of Defense in 2006.

Have Any Lawsuits Been Filed Regarding Defective Earplugs By 3M?

A company that distributed the earplugs brought its concerns to the government’s attention in 2016. A qui tam lawsuit was filed over the plugs, alleging that 3M made false and misleading statements regarding the product and didn’t disclose the flaws in its design. The Justice Department reached a settlement with 3M in 2018, which included a $9.1 million award to the government.

Some individual service members could be entitled to compensation by opting to participate in their own legal action. In 2019, hundreds of 3M earplug lawsuits were filed.

Who Can Participate in a Lawsuit Over Defective Earplugs Supplied By 3M?

The aforementioned lawsuit reimbursed only the government and not individual service members. Those that used the earplugs while serving in the military between 2003 and 2015 who have been diagnosed with either partial or complete hearing loss could be entitled to compensation.

If you are wondering whether your hearing could have been damaged due to the use of defective earplugs supplied by 3M, talk to the Indianapolis personal injury firm of Stewart|Phelps|Wood Injury Lawyers regarding the options available to you.