Understanding the 3M™ Lawsuits
If you are a veteran or active duty service member who was issued 3M™ Combat Arms Earplugs between 2003 and 2015, you may have been issued a defective product that contributed to hearing loss or impairment.
Why Are Lawsuits Being Filed?
Between 2002 and 2015, thousands of U.S. service members were issued 3M™ Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs for use during combat and training. These earplugs were used by the men and women across hundreds of different military occupational specialties, including by those deployed on the front lines in the Middle East and those underway aboard U.S Naval ships and submarines.
Following a recent whistleblower filing, an investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that these earplugs were defective, having been designed to be too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and thus put users at risk for permanent hearing loss, impairment or Tinnitus.
In July 2018, 3M™ agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military. Specifically, the DOJ alleged that 3M™ and acquired manufacturer, Aearo Technologies, were aware that the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 were too short to be correctly inserted into a user’s ears—a defect that allowed the device to become loosened without the user knowing. Despite this knowledge, the company failed to disclose this information.
As a result, the earplugs failed to provide adequate noise cancellation for some military users who were under the assumption that they were protected from damaging noise related to their occupational specialty. The company admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.
The Disastrous Effects of Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Tinnitus and hearing loss from military service is usually caused by noise exposure during combat and training. Military earplugs, such as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs are supposed to help protect military members from dangerous levels of sound from explosions, gunfire, aircraft, tanks, heavy equipment and more.
Hearing impairment has severe and far-reaching implications on the lives of those it affects. Those who suffer from conditions such as Tinnitus and hearing loss may be unable to concentrate or sleep due to the constant ringing or buzzing sounds and find it difficult to interact with others. Such affects can cause one to experience difficulties in all areas of their lives, including performing routine job duties and engaging with others. Further, those who suffer from severe hearing impairment such as Tinnitus and hearing loss often experience social isolation, anxiety and depression due to these limiting conditions.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more than 2.7 million veterans currently receive disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, but the actual number may be higher. These estimates are based on the number of veterans who have been through the documentation process by the VA. There are likely many other veterans with military hearing loss that the VA has not documented.
Statistics and research related to Tinnitus, hearing loss and hearing impairment suggest the following:
- Veterans are 30 percent more likely than non-veterans to have a severe hearing impairment (CDC).
- Veterans who served after September 2001 are four times more likely to have military hearing loss (CDC).
- In 2017, there were over a million veterans receiving disability compensation for hearing loss and over 1.6 million receiving disability for tinnitus.
- 79.1 percent of tinnitus sufferers had a diagnosis of anxiety, and 59.3 percent had depression, while 58.2 percent suffered both.
- In a 2017 study, scientists suggested that post-deployment hearing loss or tinnitus typically occurred together with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and traumatic brain injury.
Noise-induced hearing loss is a permanent disability. There is no cure, though there are hearing aids and surgery that may help.
Have you suffered as a result of defective 3M™ Combat Arms Earplugs? Contact our attorneys to discuss your claim.
Active duty service members who used the defective earplugs, while risking their lives in defense of our country, now suffer permanent hearing impairment due to the alleged wrongdoing of 3M™ and Aearo Technologies. We believe that it is reprehensible to knowingly place our nation’s service members at risk of permanent injury through negligence and deceit. If you or a loved one served in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 and experienced hearing damage due to defective earplugs, we urge you to contact The Law Offices of Peter Angelos, as you may be entitled to pursue compensation.