3M Combat Arms Military Ear Plugs Linked to Hearing Loss, Tinnitus

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3M earplug lawsuit

UPDATE: On July 24, 2020, a judge denied 3M’s attempt to hide behind a government contractor defense, allowing thousands of lawsuits on behalf of injured vets to proceed.

In July 2018, international conglomerate 3M was ordered to pay a $9.1 million settlement by the Justice Department after it was found that they may have knowingly sold defective combat arms earplugs to the U.S. military. These faulty military ear plugs did nothing to protect soldiers’ hearing, leading to thousands of cases of hearing loss in active-duty service members and veterans.

The attorneys at Hodes Milman, LLP represent American soldiers on a regular basis and take investigating these claims seriously. We have great respect for members of the armed forces and believe 3M should be held accountable for any damage or losses it may have caused.

Which Product Is Defective?

3M combat ear plugs, also known as dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs, version 2 (CAEv2), were provided to the military between the years of 2003 and 2015 by 3M and Aearo Technologies, a company that 3M purchased in 2008 for over $1 billion. It is unknown how many pairs were supplied to U.S. soldiers because 3M and Aearo created limitless Indefinite-Quantity Contracts. A single contract in 2006 proposed supplying at least 500,000 pairs, leading to an estimated 2,250,000 pairs total.

These earplugs were used in routine training by all military base and air base branches, including by the Navy, Marines, and Coast Guard. They were also provided for combat overseas in countries from Afghanistan and Cameroon to Uganda and Yemen. Soldiers stationed in more than 20 countries were affected. If you believe you may be a victim of hearing loss or tinnitus due to ear plugs made by 3M, contact a lawyer at Hodes Milman, LLP for a free case review.

How Is the Device Supposed to Work?

3M claimed that service members would benefit from two different types of earplugs built into a single unit. A green closed end was supposed to protect ears from the noise of heavy machinery and other loud combat sounds such as watercraft, aircraft, and armored vehicles. The yellow open end was intended to provide protection against loud impulse noises like weapons fire while still allowing a soldier to hear low-level sounds, such as commands and approaching vehicles.

Did 3M Really Know Their Product Was Defective?

Allegedly 3M/Aearo rigged their product testing to make it look like their Combat Arms Earplugs were effective when selling to the military. It’s been stated that they claimed the earplugs met material regulatory standards for ear protection, including by the American National Standards Institute, since the government required it in its bid acceptance. 3M/Aearo also allegedly submitted false claims about their ear plug performance in the years following in order to renew their contract and continue to exclusively supply the military with defective ear protection.

What Are the Alleged Defects?

The yellow open end of the combat ear plugs is alleged to reduce decibel levels while making it difficult to hear military commands, instead of living up to claims of a 0-decibel rating which would’ve allowed soldiers to hear critical commands in the field while still protecting their ears from intermittent and unexpected loud explosions. The company’s tests on the open end didn’t comply with mandatory standards and caused a -2 decibel level (negative decibel results imply amplification).

Filings claim that 3M/Aearo fraudulently posted a 22-decibel reduction rating on the green closed end of the 3M Combat Arms earplugs and stated that it would effectively protect ears during continuous, extreme noise combat situations. The truth is there was a design flaw that lowered the protection level to about half of what it claimed. Because of this flaw, American soldiers were unwittingly exposed to greater amounts of noise in combat that could potentially lead to hearing loss and tinnitus.

The earplugs had a major design flaw. The stem was too short, preventing service members from correctly inserting either side into their ear canal. The large flange on the end not in use also physically blocked the end in use from reaching far enough into the ear. 3M/Aearo tried to rectify the situation by having the user roll the flange up on the unused side when putting the plug in.

Why Is 3M/Aearo at Fault?

The manufacturers failed to warn or instruct soldiers of the defect in the military issue ear plugs. Military personnel was simply instructed to insert the plugs using the yellow or green end based on the situation at hand. Packaging suggested that wearers may get a better fit if they rolled back the flange on the unused end but failed to state that the design flaw required the flange to be rolled back for the product to work effectively and prevent permanent hearing damage.

What Injuries Were Allegedly Caused by 3M Earplugs?

Soldiers who used these military-issued ear plugs have been diagnosed with tinnitus (ringing or noise in the ears), hearing loss, and even deafness. 3M earplugs have had a significant impact on service members. It was recently estimated that approximately 52 to 60 percent of veterans have some sort of hearing loss and 2.7 million veterans receive disability for it. The VA spends over $1 billion per year to help treat more than 800,000 veterans for hearing issues.

Why Should I File a Lawsuit?

While the military has collected money for 3M/Aearo’s negligent act, individual service members were left out of the settlement. In order to recover compensation for affected veterans and active-duty military, attorneys have created 3M combat earplugs lawsuits that cover personal injuries and experience. Your potential compensation could cover pain and suffering, medical bills, and other damages allegedly caused by these defective earplugs. With money for treatment, surgery, or medication, some ear damage can even be reversed.

If you or someone you love meets the following criteria, you may be able to file a claim that can help you receive financial support to ease the burden of these injuries. These criteria apply even if you receive disability and other service-related benefits.

  • Served in the armed forces in an affected area between the years of 2003 and 2015.
  • Received and wore 3M dual-ended Combat Arms earplugs during your service.
  • Diagnosed with permanent tinnitus or hearing loss.

file a 3m earplug lawsuit

How Do I File a Lawsuit?

You can call the legal team at Hodes Milman, LLP today at (949) 640-8222 or contact us online to receive a free case review. If you cannot make it to our office, we are happy to meet you in your home or even in the hospital while you recover. You will be under no obligation to start a formal agreement with our firm when you speak with us. However, there may be time restrictions to file a claim, so we urge you to file as soon as possible.

Why Should I Choose Hodes Milman?

The attorneys at Hodes Milman, LLP have been fighting to make America a safer place to live for more than 30 years by holding negligent parties accountable. We also have a longstanding tradition of representing retired and active U.S. military members. We wish to protect the men and women who have fought to protect our freedom.

Our firm has recovered over $200 million for clients during our decades of jury trial experience and we’ve received several prestigious legal awards. However, the most important thing you should know is that we give each case the attention and fresh perspective it deserves. We are highly involved with our clients and will fight our hardest to get you justice every time.

Our total commitment to you sets us apart from other law firms. You will forever be our client, even after your case is resolved. Our door will always be open. When you choose Hodes Milman, LLP you’re getting more than a lawyer; you’re getting someone you can call and confide in for any reason at any time.

How Do I Contact Hodes Milman?

If you’ve been diagnosed with hearing loss after using combat arms ear plugs and have questions regarding filing a claim against 3M, our legal team is here to help. We’ll help you find answers to everything from legal-specific, to medical and financial recovery queries. When you’re ready to speak to a lawyer, call Hodes Milman, LLP 7 days a week at (949) 640-8222. 



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