According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, hearing loss and tinnitus are the top two most prevalent disabilities amongst American Veterans. As of 2015, a reported 933,000 Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and 1.3 million vets were receiving compensation for tinnitus.

Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the 3M company, formerly known as the Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company for willingly and knowingly selling defective earplugs to the United States military for over 15 years. The company, specializing in the fields of industry, worker safety, health care, and consumer goods, has since paid out nearly $10 million in settlements to the U.S. Department of Justice and affected veterans.

What are 3M Earplugs?

3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs

The now discontinued “Dual-Ended Combat Arms” earplugs were designed with military personnel in mind. These earplugs were advertised as being designed to, “allow wearer to hear low-level sounds when the yellow side of the earplug is inserted” while still blocking out loud blasts and gunfire, and block all noise out when the darker side was inserted first.

Originally manufactured by Aero Technologies, the company was acquired by 3M in 2008 and became the exclusive provider of “selective attenuation earplugs” to the United States military. As a sole provider, many soldiers serving in Iraq and/or Afghanistan from 2003-2015 were issued these earplugs during their deployment.

As soldiers and military personnel thought they were being protected by state-of-the-art 3M earplugs, thousands have since suffered due to the discovered defects.

How Were the 3M Military Earplugs Defective?

The “Dual-Ended Combat Arms” earplugs were defective in that they were too short in order to be properly inserted into the ear, which meant the earplugs could easily loosen and make them ineffective for many people. They also had a flange that could easily loosen, a defect that could affect how the product worked. According to a lawsuit filed in Missouri,the earplugs, “have likely caused thousands, if not millions, of soldiers to suffer significant hearing loss, tinnitus, and additional injuries related to hearing loss, including but not limited to pain and suffering and loss of the pleasures of life”.

In a court battle with the U.S. Department of Justice last year, 3M admitted to knowing about the defect and failing to notify those who purchased the product, including the United States military. The government considered the acts of 3M a violation of the federal false claims act and was forced to pay a $9.1 million settlement.

Many lawsuits have been filed against 3M, dating back to the first one in 2000. However, 3M actively suppressed and falsified test results, so the earplugs continued to be used and sold for another 15 years before being discontinued in 2015.

Side Effects of Defective Military Earplugs

Many lawsuits claim that service members suffered from:

  • Permanent hearing loss
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Auditory processing disorder
  • Pain and suffering

A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, veterans are “30% more likely to have SHI [Severe Hearing Impairments] than nonveterans”, with statistics increasing even higher after September 2001. Studies show that over 414,000 veterans who served in Iraq and/or Afghanistan reported experiencing hearing loss, tinnitus, or both.

Contact the Attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter Today

If you or a loved one served in the military from 2003-2015 and are have experienced hearing loss, you may be entitled to compensation. To learn more about the 3M military earplugs or to speak to an attorney, fill out a contact form or call 216-285-9991 for a FREE consultation.

If you’re not sure which type of earplugs you used during your deployment, we can help. Call us today.

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