Your hearing was supposed to be protected. If you used Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs from 3M when using a firearm, you probably trusted marketing that told you your ears were safe. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus or a loss of balance, it could be because of defective combat earplugs.
Who Might Be Affected
Combat noise is a hazard for military working or training on land, at sea and in the air. Between 2003 and 2015, 3M sold tens of thousands of the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs and the U.S. Government issued them to soldiers.
When users placed them in the ear, the earplugs were supposed to seal. To the person wearing them, it felt like they were sealed, but most of the time they did not.
Weapons fire is loud. Machine gun fire, mortars, IEDs and other explosions are so intense they make your molars shake. Hearing loss from defective 3M earplugs isn’t always noticeable right away. Damage initiated by events when you served might not show up or intensify until years down the road.
Once your hearing is damaged, you can’t get it back. There’s no way to heal it, and all the VA can give you is new hearing aids.
3M Knew Combat Earplugs Were Defective
An estimated 800,000 service members now suffer from hearing damage. What’s staggering is that 3M made false representations when they sold the defective earplugs in the first place.
The earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies. During testing, Aearo allegedly found as early as the year 2000 that the earplugs were defective. They loosened during lab tests. 3M bought Aearo Technologies for $1.2 billion, but didn’t warn the military or service members about the defect. Employees falsified certification stating the earplugs complied with military standards.
Even worse, there was a quick fix that could make the earplugs effective. 3M didn’t provide instructions on that quick fix. If you have hearing loss from combat earplugs, it could have been avoided, and that’s not right.
You served our country in dangerous conditions. You risked your life for our nation, and you did what you were told to protect your hearing. Despite your efforts, you received a life-changing injury.
Sham Testing of Combat Arms Earplugs
The Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were green on one side, yellow on the other. The green side was supposed to block all noise, while the yellow side allowed conversation through so service members could hear commands.
Manufacturers should have hired an outside, independent lab to test them, but they didn’t. In their own lab tests with their own employees, they found the yellow side worked, but the green side didn’t. Because of the shape of the earplugs, it was hard to get them to seal. They worked their way out in lab tests. If they weren’t effective in the lab, results in the field with active military members would be even worse.
They found if testers folded back the flanges on the yellow side, they could insert the green side all the way and completely block the noise. They retested and reported the earplugs blocked noise to specifications. But they didn’t report the potential problem or what military members could do to correct the design flaw.
3M’s False Claims Act Lawsuit
Last summer, 3M agreed to pay the United States Government more than $9 million in a False Claims Act Lawsuit. Attorneys for the United States showed 3M had knowingly sold defective earplugs. In that case, there was no determination of liability. 3M denies the product was defectively designed and states they’ll defend against allegations through the legal process.
If You’ve Experienced Hearing Loss From 3M Combat Earplugs
If you or a loved one served between 2003 and 2015 and now you’re experiencing hearing loss or tinnitus, we’re here to help. Schedule a free consultation with a Monsour Law Firm attorney today.