Defective 3M Combat Earplugs have been linked to hearing loss and tinnitus in active US military members and veterans. While these dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs were intended to protect against hearing loss, they have been found to be defective and use of the earplugs has been linked to a dramatic increase in hearing loss diagnoses in veterans and service members.
The Combat Arms Earplugs were provided to U.S. service members for more than a decade and were used in overseas deployments and routine training. One end was yellow and intended to protect against loud impulse noises while still allowing the soldier to hear verbal commands. The dark green end was supposed to provide constant noise protection. Instead of blocking sound waves however, the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into the ear canal, causing them to loosen in the ear and not properly protect our nation’s service members from potentially damaging sounds. As a result, service members relying on the defective earplugs suffered injuries ranging from tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) to partial or total hearing loss.
In July 2018, the Justice Department announced a $9.1 million settlement with 3M over allegations that the company knowingly provided the defective Combat Arms Earplugs to U.S. soldiers. These earplugs failed to protect our nation’s soldiers and have been linked to a dramatic increase in hearing loss diagnoses in veterans and active-duty service members. Service members and veterans are now pursing individual lawsuits for injuries they suffered from using the defective earplugs.
Aearo won an exclusive contract bid to supply the military with its dual-sided earplugs from 2003 to 2012. After 3M bought Aearo in 2008, it took over the contract and continued to supply ear protection to thousands of soldiers in the Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines.
Moldex began selling its BattlePlugs in 2012 after winning the military contract from 3M, but 3M continued to produce its dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs until 2015.
Combat operations, extended training periods, and more powerful noises from aircraft, vehicles and weapons systems continued to increase the risk of hearing loss in soldiers, according to a 2008 article by D. Scott McIlwain and colleagues in the American Journal of Public Health.
It was a big problem for soldiers in the war in Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom) because of improvised explosives, rocket propelled grenades and mortar rounds. By the time the war in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) started, Aearo had introduced the dual-ended Combat Arms earplug.
In 2004, the military issued Combat Arms earplugs to all deploying soldiers.
“The U.S. Marine Corps was so convinced of the effectiveness of the Combat Arms earplug that it ordered over 20,000 pairs, thereby temporarily depleting the entire national stock in 2003,” authors wrote.
3M supplied several military bases across the country. The company’s South Carolina plant supplied earplugs to several local bases that trained soldiers for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Moldex’s whistleblower complaint. These bases included: Shaw Air Force Base, the Marine Corp Recruiting Depot at Parris Island, the Naval Weapons Station Charleston and Fort Jackson.
If you are currently active in the US military or are a veteran:
– serving in the US military between 2003 and 2015;
– who received and used military issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs during this time period; and,
– have suffered from hearing loss or tinnitus,
you may be eligible to file a 3M Combat Earplugs lawsuit.
Heaviside Reed Zaic appreciates the service of the men and women that protect our country and want to hold this company accountable for the injuries it caused to our nation’s heroes.
Contact us to learn how we can help you.