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3M Earplugs That Caused Hearing Problems Lead to Legal Action

July 30, 2019

The military contracted manufacturing company 3M for high-quality earplugs to be used by soldiers, but it has been determined that the earplugs did not keep a tight seal. This allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through – unbeknownst to the individual wearing the earplugs. As a result, thousands of military veterans across the country have suffered hearing loss because of these defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs.

Thousands of U.S. veterans came forward after learning they have suffered hearing loss because of the faulty earplugs. Many of these veterans have taken legal action by filing personal injury lawsuits against 3M, which is based out of Minnesota.

These lawsuits are seeking to recover compensation for the damages suffered by the defective products. According to the lawsuits that have been filed, 3M failed to warn the users about the defect or neglected to provide users with the proper instructions for the earplugs.

The failure to maintain a proper seal has allegedly resulted in numerous hearing problems for those who wore them. Some wearers suffered hearing loss while others suffered tinnitus or loss of balance. The 3M Combat Arms earplugs were issued to soldiers in the military from 2003 to 2015. Any veteran who wore these earplugs is advised to have a hearing test to determine if they suffered injuries from the inadequate ear protection.

Past Problems with 3M Products 

3M has already been reprimanded by the U.S. Government for its actions regarding the damaged earplugs. The company agreed to make restitution of $9.1 million to settle allegations that the company sold the earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency after failing to disclose the defects to the agency, the Justice Department reported.

The federal government brought the allegations against 3M forward under the False Claims Act. While that matter was resolved with the payment, it was based solely on allegations and the Justice Department points out that it didn’t determine liability. However, those who are victims of the defective earplugs are taking legal action to recover punitive damages caused by 3M’s “gross negligence,” according to lawsuits filed in Texas.

The lawsuits, according to the Military Times, indicate that since 2003, 3M claimed that its Combat Arms earplugs could allow users to hear commands from soldiers as well as enemies who are approaching without impairment as if they weren’t using earplugs, but in reality, the earplugs weren’t adequately protecting the ears of the users.

According to the lawsuits that have been filed, 3M employees were aware of the problems with the earplugs years before the military contract got underway. Some documents indicate that 3M was aware of the problem as far back as 2000. The federal government contracted 3M in 2006, estimating that they would buy 15,000 packages, each containing 50 pairs of earplugs, from 3M each year, which cost at least $9 million. 3M continued selling the earplugs to the military until 2015 when the product was discontinued. The lawsuit alleges that the earplugs weren’t recalled, so they are likely still in use by the military and are sold by other vendors.

How the Earplugs Worked 

The Combat Arms Ear Plugs (CAEv2) were sold exclusively to the armed forces from 2003 to 2015. Here are some of the missions where soldiers wore these earplugs:

  • The War in Afghanistan
  • The Iraq War
  • War in Somalia
  • Operation Ocean Shield
  • The Part of the War on Terror in North-West Pakistan
  • The U.S.-led intervention of Iraq, Libya, and Syria
  • United States Border Patrol
  • Yemeni Civil War

The earplugs were worn by soldiers to protect their hearing from higher levels of noise during aircraft operation, explosions, and gunfire as well as other loud activities or events. Because of the defective earplugs, thousands of those who served in the military during those years are reporting irreversible hearing damage and loss of hearing.

CAEv2 earplugs had a dual-sided feature that was supposed to make them suitable for military duties that involved noise-sensitive situations. When the earplugs were worn “open,” they were supposed to keep out noises that were loud but allow spoken commands to be heard. When they were worn “closed,” they were supposed to block out all sounds just so long as they didn’t exceed a certain decibel.

A 3M competitor, Moldex-Metric, Inc., had a whistleblower who revealed that Aearo Technologies, Inc. researchers – who were acquired by 3M in 2008 – had falsified test data to show the earplugs were more effective than they truly were. Only when the earplugs were worn in a specific way – which had the earplug’s third flange folded upward – could they possibly block out sounds as much as claimed.

When the earplugs were simply put in the ears of the soldier, it was shown that the earplugs couldn’t block any more than 10.9 decibels of sound. The plugs also have stems that are too short to fit the ears of the soldiers effectively, so the earplugs can become dislodged, allowing loud noises to damage the ear canal. There was no warning label or indication of this potential issue in the user’s manual, so those who wore the earplugs were unintentionally exposed to dangerously loud noises on the job.

The Filing of Lawsuits Against 3M for Faulty Ear Protection

Many lawsuits have been filed in the Western District of Texas – Waco Division of the United States District Court. Hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed against 3M in Texas. If you have suffered hearing damage because of the 3M earplugs you were issued while serving in the U.S. military, you should consult with a personal injury attorney. They can help you determine the best way to proceed with your claim so you can recoup compensation for your damages.

The team at Fears Nachawati is actively involved in the litigation moving these claims forward, and we are doing our best to support the veterans who bravely served our country. It is our utmost belief that our soldiers have faced enough hardship without also having to needlessly suffer due to the false claims of a multi-million dollar corporation.

Seek Justice with Fears Nachawati

We here at Fears Nachawati understand the frustration and anguish felt by those who have suffered irreversible hearing loss while using a device meant to protect their hearing, and we are fully prepared to help victims recover from this devastating blow.

If you or a loved one has suffered a loss of hearing after using these 3M earplugs, then the legal team at Fears Nachawati is here to help you hold the responsible parties accountable. Contact our experienced associates today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation to discuss the specifics of your case. Please call (866) 705-7584, or visit the offices of Fears Nachawati located throughout the great state of Texas, including in Houston, Dallas, Austin, Fort Worth, and San Antonio.


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