3M Earplugs at Work- Ear Damage and Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the one of the most common types of workplace illness and affects about 20,000 workers every year. Safety regulations established by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require that employers limit exposure to loud noise levels. In many cases, workers are required to wear ear protection equipment to meet these goals.
Industrial products company, 3M is currently facing hundreds of ear damage lawsuits filed by military members who used 3M Combat Arms dual-ended earplugs and may have suffered hearing loss.
A similar type of earplugs manufactured by 3M, the 3M E-A-R ARC Ear plugs were also used in many industrial settings and workers who suffered hearing loss due to the defective devices may also be filing lawsuits against 3M.
In addition to veterans, workers who may have been affected by 3M earplug failure-to-protect include:
- Construction workers
- Electrical workers
- Factory workers
- Road workers
- Farm workers
- Mine workers
- Iron and metal workers
3M Dual-ended Earplugs
The 3M dual-ended earplug was introduced in 2003 as the Aearo Technologies Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2). Aero Technologies was acquired by 3M in 2008 and 3M later expanded production of the dual-ended earplugs line to include the 3M E-A-R ARC Earplugs which are constructed in the same manner but in red and yellow rather than green and black.
3M dual-ended earplugs are designed as double-ended cones connected by a stem. Inserted one way, the earplugs are intended to block all noise, while inserting them the other direction are intended to block loud, explosive noises but allow for conversational noise to be heard.
Unfortunately, for some users, the connection stem may be too short allowing for the devices to work themselves loose in a slow and undetectable fashion. As the device becomes unseated, the user may not be aware that they are no longer providing protection as intended. This has resulted in hearing loss for many users who thought they were protected.
3M is no longer selling the 3M Combat Arms CAEv2 which was discontinued in 2015 but continues to sell the same design as the 3M E.A.R Arc Earplug in red and yellow for civilian industrial use.
Hearing Loss in Industrial Settings
National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) estimates that 22 million workers are exposed to noise levels that can cause hearing loss each year. In most cases, this work-related ear damage or hearing loss is irreversible. In total, about 24% of all hearing loss is related to workplace exposure and 20,000 cases of documented hearing loss occur each year.
OSHA regulations require that hearing “impairment” is documented and tracked. In fact, many more cases of hearing loss may occur each year, but symptoms may begin as a small issue and grow over time. People may begin to have trouble discerning conversations or determining distance between noises. In many cases, hearing loss can lead to isolation and depression which may grow worse over time.
Symptoms of early hearing loss may include:
- Tinnitus as ringing or buzzing in ears
- Headaches, neck aches or ear pain
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Irritability and anxiety
- Inability to sleep even when tired
Once hearing loss or impairment has occurred, the chance of other types of workplace or other injury may increase as the person is unable to hear safety alerts or oncoming dangers such as automobiles.
3M E-A-R ARC Earplugs – Worker’s Ear Damage Lawsuit
Employers are obligated to ensure that noise levels ion the workplace are not harmful. Workers may have suffered hearing loss even though they were required to use 3M dual-ended earplugs to protect hearing in the worst types of noise conditions. 3M has been accused of manufacturing a faulty device and of using deceptive practices to ensure that their product continued to be used even though it was known to be inadequate. Though 3M discontinued the military version of dual-ended earplugs in 2015, the civilian version of 3M E-A-R ARC Earplugs is still available.
The company settled a U.S. Department of Justice whistleblower lawsuit in which 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million after another manufacturer accused 3M of deceptive practices in obtaining military supply contracts. 3M and predecessor, Aearo Technologies were accused of manipulating test results so that it appeared the product was providing stated and adequate ear protection.
In addition to the hundreds of hearing loss lawsuits already filed by veterans, 3M may be facing many more lawsuits for ear injuries experienced by users of the 3M dual-ended E-A-R ARC earplugs in industrial and occupational settings outside of the military. 3M hearing loss lawsuits are seeking compensation for injuries, disability, and permanent hearing loss which may have resulted in medical costs, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
Workers who used 3M dual-ended earplugs (CAEv2) or 3M E-A-R ARC earplugs for ear protection and suffered ear damage, hearing loss or other hearing problems should seek assistance from an attorney.