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Defective 3M Dual-Ended Military Earplugs Hearing Loss Lawsuit for U.S. Soldiers

United States Soldiers Helping Each OtherRosenfeld Injury Lawyers is currently reviewing hearing impairment cases related to defective 3M dual-ended military earplugs. To date, hundreds of veterans and active servicemembers have filed lawsuits against 3M, a federal government contractor, that manufactured defective earplugs for combat military personnel. These earplugs were designed with a faulty seal that allows dangerously loud noise to penetrate the wearer’s ears without their knowledge.

In July 2018, the United States DOJ (Department of Justice) announced it had reached an agreement with the 3M Company concerning their military earplugs. The manufacturer agreed to a $9.1 million settlement to resolve allegations that it has supplied US military personnel with dangerously defective Combat Arms Earplugs – model CAEv2. The federal lawsuit alleged that 3M knowingly manufactured and sold the defective earplugs knowing they could not work as designed, putting US military soldiers at extreme risk of extensive hearing damage.

Currently, the military has supplied US active-duty servicemembers in combat zones with hearing protection as a mandatory issue. However, this whistleblower lawsuit alleges that the hearing protection issued for more than a decade has not served the military as expected.

If you or a loved one has hearing loss or deafness after serving in the military and used a 3M earplug device, contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers LLC. Our attorneys are reviewing these cases and can advise you of your legal options including lawsuits.

Manufacturer Misled the Military by Hiding the Defect

In 2016, Moldex-Metric, Inc., a rival earplug manufacturing competitor filed a whistleblower lawsuit claiming that 3M was making false claims regarding their dual-ended earplugs devices and had been deceiving the US Department of Justice for years. Within months, the federal agency joined the lawsuit. The lawsuit documents allege that the 3M devices “have likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus in addition to exposing millions to the risk caused by 3M’s defective earplugs.”

The allegations of the product being defective were realized when it was determined that the earplugs are manufactured too short to ensure that an adequate seal protects the soldier's ear canals. The poor design allows the earplugs to loosen indiscernibly. This defect allows significantly more than acceptable levels of noise to enter the ear canal, thereby increasing the potential risk of significant hearing damage.

In 2008, the 3M corporation acquired Aearo Technologies, Inc., the first developer of the Combat Arms Earplugs that had been selling the product since 2003 under a military contract. The lawsuit claims that the original manufacturer had tested the efficacy of the dual-end earplugs in 2000 when it was discovered that the devices had specific defects that failed to provide adequate hearing protection. After identifying the defect, Aearo Technologies, Inc. never revealed the problematic defect to the military.

False Certification

Before the military could provide soldiers the standard issue Combat Arms Earplugs, the government required Aearo Technologies to certify the devices to prove that it conformed to the military’s standards. The manufacturer was required to verify that the devices protected the wearer from noises and impulse sounds created by military explosions and firearms allowing the user to hear quiet sounds and normal speech including commands while on an active battlefield.

The manufacturer was required to certify that the device attained a noise reduction rate that could be proven while being tested. For certification, the devices must be defect free and include detailed instructions to the soldier on how to properly handle and use the earplugs. Internal test results conducted by Aearo Technologies failed to produce acceptable ratings expected by the military. Test subjects received mixed results when the earplugs were not correctly fitted.

After 3M acquired Aearo Technologies, the company failed to include proper fitting instructions in the device packaging but instead told wearers to insert the Combat Arms Earplugs Devices as they usually would into their ear canal. Unfortunately, the lack of complete instructions caused many soldiers to improperly insert the earplugs to eliminate any risks of the device loosening during use. This lack of instructions led to an eventual hearing loss in many combat soldiers.

Over the years, 3M claimed that the earplugs devices when positioned in the ear canal in the closed position – when the dark side is inserted – achieved the proper noise reduction rating. However, these claims falsely overstated the level of protection from hearing loss it provided. The lawsuit claims that 3M and Aearo Technologies misled the military through packaging and marketing of the devices and “likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss and tinnitus.”

The Severity of the Injuries

Many servicemembers and civilians are victims of injuries caused by the defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs. Some of these injuries include a total or partial hearing loss, ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears, or continuous/intermittent tinnitus that produces roaring, hissing, ringing, clicking or buzzing sounds. These problems are the result of extremely elevated levels of damaging sound and noise caused by machinery, aircraft, gunfire, and explosions. Many soldiers and civilians have been affected by the hearing loss including difficulty sleeping, focusing and concentrating.

A $9.1 Million Agreement Concerning False Statements

The whistleblower lawsuit filed by Moldex-Metric, Inc. in 2016 and later joined by the US Department of Justice proved that when the devices were not adequately sealed, the soldiers had a false sense of security that the earplugs were blocking out dangerously elevated levels of impulse sounds. The lawsuit states that without proper sealing, the devices created significant risks of hearing damage.

In 2018, 3M agreed to settle the case against the plaintiffs for $9.1 million affirming that they perceptively manufactured and sold the defective devices to the US military. While the settlement finishes the lawsuit over the failure of 3M to disclose serious defective problems to the military, the company refused to admit liability. The agreement specifies that Moldex-Metric, Inc., the original plaintiff in the case, is to receive over $1.9 million with the remaining settlement amount going to the United States DOJ.

The CDC Weighs In

Recently, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) announced that US military veterans have a 30% higher risk than non-veterans to suffer from significant hearing loss and those serving in the military from 2002 and later are four times more at risk for hearing impairment. The government agency says that the hearing issues tend to develop from exposure to extreme noises in day-to-day operations of the military in and out of combat zones. The CDC reports that many soldiers are exposed to roadside bombs, blasts, heavy machinery and equipment, jet engines, and gunfire.

Noise-producing hearing impairment causes damage to the eardrum rendering the individual with a permanent disability. Medical science has yet to find a cure to restore normal hearing loss. However, surgical options and hearing aids are available. Unfortunately, nearly all forms of noise-induced hearing impairment could have been prevented.

A 2018 study published by the National Institutes of Health reveals that hearing impairment can significantly diminish the individual’s quality of life and has been a proven risk factor for ongoing distress. Research data shows that individuals suffering hearing problems over an extended period typically live highly limited lives.

Who is Affected?

Any military personnel that received government-issued earplugs might be affected by the damage caused by these defective devices. Many soldiers were unaware that these were the earplugs the military gave service members for more than a decade. The military issued millions of the Combat Arms Earplugs devices to servicemembers in the United States and abroad. Also, 3M sold these devices for civilian commercial applications including those used by the US Border Patrol. Some military engagements that might have involved the use of these defective earplugs include:

  • The Iraq War
  • The Afghanistan War
  • Indian Ocean Engagement – Operation Ocean Shield
  • The War on Terror – North-West Pakistan
  • The Somalia War
  • Libya Crisis
  • Iraq and Syria Interventions (2014 to present)
  • Yemen Civil War.
  • Libya Intervention

Do You Qualify for Compensation After Using 3M Earplugs?

The federal government contractor 3M corporation has agreed to pay claimants millions of dollars after settling their case over defective earplugs that were issued by the US military and other government agencies. An Assistant Attorney General for the Department of Justice states that the department is “committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct. Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”

If you are an active service member, veteran or served in another US law enforcement government agency at any time since 2003, and suffer a hearing impairment, you might be eligible to file for financial compensation to receive monetary damages from the defective earplug manufacturer. Receiving payment for your injuries in no way affects your military disability benefits because the lawsuit involves a government contractor, and not the military directly.

Do you believe that you have a potential lawsuit due to a hearing impairment associated with the defective 3M dual-ended military earplugs? Contact Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers now at (888) 424-5757 to discuss your legal options during a no-obligation, free case evaluation. Our legal team is ready to accept your call 24/7. Let us answer your questions and further discuss the type of monetary compensation you are likely entitled to receive.

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