3M Military Earplugs Hearing Loss Lawsuit
Hearing loss caused by exposure to loud noises in combat environment may be permanent and is considered a disability. The Veterans Administration (VA) reports that hearing loss and tinnitus are the two most common service-related disabilities, accounting for over 2.5 million cases annually.
Thousands of U.S. combat veterans may have suffered hearing loss after using defective 3M earplugs which had been issued to protect against wartime noise exposure.
Affected Device: Aearo Technologies or 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs version 2 (CAEv2) manufactured from 2003 to 2013
3M has been accused of manufacturing a defective device which did not meet military specifications and of concealing the knowledge that their devices would not provide the intended protection. Though the company has previously settled a lawsuit with the U.S. Department of Justice, individual combat veterans are now filing 3M Military Earplugs Lawsuits to seek compensation for personal injury and disability caused by their hearing loss.
The 3M Combat Arms Earplug is a double-sided earplug which may be too short for some ear canals. They are designed as a double-sided cone-shaped device which can be inserted two ways. One side allows for the user to hear speech, while the other side is intended to completely block noise. The stem which connects the two sides is too short for many ear canals.
Because the connecting stem is short, the earplugs may be prevented from being inserted deep enough. When inserted, they may work themselves loose in a slow and undetectable manner so that the user is unaware that the earplugs have become unseated and will no longer provide the protection needed in a combat environment.
The lack of adequate ear protection can and has resulted in hearing loss for some combat veterans.
Victims of the defective product may have suffered:
- Partial or complete hearing loss in one or both ears
- Tinnitus as a constant or intermittent ringing, whining or buzzing sound
- Dizziness or loss of balance
- Inability to sleep even when tired
- Irritability and anxiety
- Headaches, neck aches or ear pain
3M Military Earplugs U.S. Department of Justice Settlement
In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to settle a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) whistleblower lawsuit over their dual-ended ear protection product “Combat Arms Earplugs”.
The DOJ became involved with the 3M earplug case after a whistleblower lawsuit was brought by a 3M competitor. The whistleblower lawsuit was filed by Moldex-Metric, Inc. under the False Claims Act in 2016.
The lawsuit claimed that Aearo Technologies, the original manufacturer which had been acquired by 3M in 2008, and 3M had manipulated test results so that it would appear that the product met military standards. As part of the $9.1 million DOJ settlement, Moldex-Metric received $1.9 million as a reward for identifying potential fraud perpetrated against the U.S. military and its servicemen. Though 3M agreed to pay the DOJ settlement, the company did not admit any wrongdoing.
Getting a 3M Hearing Loss Attorney
Though the VA may provide some disability services for veterans who have suffered hearing loss during combat, those services may not be adequate. Combat veterans who used the 3M earplugs purchased and issued by the military are filing lawsuits to seek compensation for their injuries, disability and permanent hearing loss.
Each case is unique and must be evaluated separately. Veterans who used 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) during combat or military action and who suffered hearing loss, have severe tinnitus or other hearing-related problems should seek legal advice from a qualified lawyer.
- Company to pay $9 million after allegedly selling defective combat earplugs to US military, Military Times (7/2018)
- Combat veteran files lawsuit for loss of hearing due to defective military ear plugs, KHOU 11 (1/2019)