Mintz Law Firm
3M Combat Earplugs Lawsuit
Between 2003 and 2015, 3M provided earplugs to members of the United States military for use in combat. Unfortunately, these earplugs were found to be defective, leading to severe injuries. Over 230,000 actions are now pending in federal court against 3M for their military-issued earplugs. This multidistrict litigation has now grown to be the largest MDL in United States history.
The 3M combat earplugs were meant to serve dual purposes. One way soldiers could use them was to create a seal inside the inner ear to block out loud noises associated with warfare. Or, if the soldier needed to hear a quieter sound like a command, they could open them slightly, which would allow them to hear soft noises.
However, the earplugs were found to be too short and could easily become dislodged, breaking the seal in the inner ear. Wearers typically did not notice the seal breaking, so they would continue using them, completely unaware of their compromised protection.
How 3M Went Wrong with their Combat Arms Earplugs
Many military personnel are exposed to dangerous noise levels during the fulfillment of their daily tasks. Without personal protective equipment for their ears, these sounds can cause permanent internal damage to otherwise healthy ears.
The dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs used a sound channel with constrictions and openings that produced a non-linear sound attenuation effect. The intention of the design was to protect military service members from the loudest sounds they are exposed to while simultaneously offering the ability to still hear vital commands. However, they would later admit that the design was defective and put them at risk for permanent hearing loss and other complications.
The original design of the earplugs was developed by Aearo Technologies, which was eventually sold to 3M when they bought the company in 2008. Originally, the design hindered the earplugs’ ability to fit into the carrying cases of Army soldiers and made wearing combat helmets a challenge. To fix these issues, they shortened the earplugs–leaving them too small for the average ear canal. Soldiers were then unable to keep the plugs in their ears most of the time. When they could, the plugs didn’t create the necessary protective seal.
Records showed that 3M knew about these issues but decided their earplugs were too profitable to cease sales. They chose not to disclose that they were dangerous and defective. It’s easy to see where 3M’s interests lie when you realize that the earplugs cost just 85 cents to make, yet they were selling them to the military for a whopping $7.63. 3M had an exclusive contract with the military through the U.S. Department of Defense, so multiply those profits by all four branches of the military and you’ll start to see just how much money 3M was making off of putting our veterans’ health at risk.
Common Noises Military Service Members Are Exposed To
Studies have shown that almost every soldier, sailor, airman, or marine will be subjected to hazardous noise levels at some point during their career. Military personnel are exposed to extremely loud sounds from varying sources, such as:
- Armored vehicles
- Ship engine rooms
The Combat Arms Earplugs made by 3M were meant to protect the hearing of soldiers from these dangerous sounds while still allowing them to perform their necessary duties. Plaintiffs argued that they did not work as advertised, resulting in devastating injuries to our veterans.
3M is one of the largest manufacturing companies in the world and they should be held accountable for deliberately withholding information that their military-issued earplugs were defective, leaving military service members at risk of hearing damage. Even after establishing that the earplugs were defective, 3M failed to issue a recall for the product and instead chose only to halt future sales.
What Are the Effects of Hearing Damage?
Exposure to loud noises, like the ones the Combat Arms Earplugs were meant to block, can cause permanent damage to vital parts of the ear. When this damage is beyond repair, it can lead to issues such as:
- Tinnitus—ringing, whooshing, or buzzing sounds in your ears
- Partial hearing loss
- Total hearing loss
- Difficulty understanding speech
- Ear pain after loud noise exposure
Research has also shown that aside from hearing damage, noise-induced hearing loss can also affect other aspects of a person’s health and can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Increased heart rate
- Feelings of isolation
Thankfully, hearing aids may be able to alleviate some of these issues. However, damage to the inner ear or auditory neural system is generally permanent and irreversible.
Contact a Colorado 3M Combat Arms Earplug Attorney
3M knew that the Combat Arms earplugs were defective but failed to disclose this with the United States military. Mintz Law Firm believes that any manufacturer that knowingly distributes a defective product should be held accountable and that 3M should be held responsible for damages they have caused to veterans.
If you have been diagnosed with hearing issues and served in the United States military between 2003 and 2015, you may be entitled to compensation. Let Mintz Law Firm investigate your case to see if you qualify for a claim against 3M today. Call (303) 462-2999 or complete an online contact form to schedule a free consultation.