It’s not surprising news that service members face unique dangers that most Americans do not. They are exposed to gunfire, loud explosions and other potentially life-changing threats. Not only are veterans more prone to PTSD, they are more susceptible to hearing loss as well.
Now, 3M is facing hundreds of lawsuits from veterans alleging that the company knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military, resulting in tinnitus and hearing loss.
In 2006, a company called Aearo, later bought by 3M, began contracting with the U.S. military to provide service members with earplugs. A lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act in 2016 alleged that the company knew the product was defective when it sold it to the military. In 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the federal government to settle allegations, but no liability was determined.
In April, more than 600 lawsuits were consolidated in Florida for multidistrict litigation.
The defective earplugs
The defective product are the dual-colored Combat Arms earplugs. Meant to serve different purposes for hearing protection, one end is yellow and the other is olive-colored. 3M discontinued the earplugs, but they didn’t recall them. This means thousands of veterans used them, believing they would protect their hearing while on the job.
What hearing damage did the defective earplugs cause?
The defective earplugs loosened when in use, causing unwanted loud noises to slip through unnoticed. The repeated exposure to loud sounds resulted in tinnitus and hearing loss. Tinnitus describes a condition in which the affected person experiences constant ringing or buzzing in their ears.
These are some situations where soldiers may have worn the Combat Arms earplugs:
- During battle
- Near gun fire or explosions
- Operating loud machinery
Veterans who served between 2003 and 2015 likely used Combat Arms earplugs. The lawsuits allege that hearing damage affects more than 800,000 veterans and service members.
Veterans put their lives on the line for their country and should be provided with equipment that keeps them safe from the dangers they face. The Combat Arms earplugs failed to protect the hearing of service members who used them.
Seeking a remedy
Hearing loss and tinnitus can have potentially debilitating effects on one’s life. They can affect relationships, work and day-to-day tasks. If you or a loved one served between 2003 and 2015, used Combat Arms earplugs and have hearing loss or tinnitus, you may be eligible for compensation.