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3M ARC Earplug Lawsuit

Consumer safety products company 3M may be facing new lawsuits filed by workers who suffered hearing damage or tinnitus while using 3M E-A-R Arc Earplugs. The double-ended earplugs were intended to protect hearing from industrial noise, but design defects may have caused them to loosen without the user becoming aware of it.

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Seeger Weiss founding partner, Chris Seeger, has been appointed as Co-Lead Counsel on a team that will represent hundreds of U.S. military members in another growing lawsuit involving 3M Combat Arms Earplugs used by military members.

Workers Suffered Tinnitus & Hearing Loss

Industrial workers and others who used 3M E-A-R Arc dual-ended Earplugs and suffered tinnitus, hearing loss or other ear damage may be eligible to file lawsuits.

3M E-A-R Arc Plug Earplugs Design Flaws

3M’s E.A.R Arc Earplugs are identical in design to the the military version, the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) which was designed and introduced in 2003 by Aearo Technologies and later acquired by 3M.

The 3M E-A-R Arc Plug Earplug is a red and yellow, double-ended device which is identical in design to the yellow and army green “Combat Arms” military version,  The double-ended design was intended to provide hearing protection in multiple environments. One end allows for the earplug to be inserted for complete ear protection or “Closed/Constant Protection Mode”, and the other side end allows the user to hear speech but still protect against sudden, percussive noises.”.

Unfortunately, the device may be too short for some user’s ear canals and prevent the earplugs from full insertion which is deep enough. Over time, the earplugs may work loose without the user being aware that they have become unseated and are no longer providing adequate ear protection.

Thousands of active duty military personnel and combat veterans may have suffered hearing damage while using the Combat Arms earplugs and an equal number of industrial or civilian workers may have suffered hearing loss using 3M EAR Arc Earplugs. Many of these workers may have been forced to retire or suffered disability to hearing damage or loss.

3M Double-Ended Earplugs and Hearing Damage

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is the federal agency responsible for ensuring workplace safety. They do so by setting reasonable limits on conditions like noise levels. They also determine what protection must be used and provided and what policies must be put in place.

OSHA has determined that ear protection will be required in the workplace when noise levels are louder than 115 decibels, for up to 15 minutes or lower noise levels for longer periods of time. 3M double-ended earplugs were reportedly designed for military combat conditions and were stated to suppress sounds for up to 190 decibels but allow for communication when used properly.

The civilian EAR Arc Plug version was designed with the same specifications and should have provided protection in most industrial settings. Unfortunately, even when used according to the instructions, the earplugs may have failed to provide protection for some users and may have resulted in hundreds or thousands of injuries of hearing loss and other ear damage.

Hearing loss symptoms may include:

  • Intermittent or constant tinnitus – ear ringing, whining, or buzzing sound
  • Dizziness or loss of balance
  • Partial or complete hearing loss in one or both ears
  • Headaches
  • Neck aches
  • Ear pain
  • Inability to sleep
  • Irritability and anxiety

Hearing loss is one of the most common types of workplace injury and is responsible for more than 20,000 workplace injury cases every year in the U.S., many of which may include permanent injury. An estimated 25% of all hearing loss may be a result of noise exposure at work and permanent hearing loss can also be responsible for an increased risk of additional injury.

3M Military Earplug Whistleblower Lawsuit

The military version of 3M double-ended earplugs, the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were the subject of a federal whistleblower lawsuit which was settled in 2016. The whistleblower, another earplug manufacturer, Moldex-Metric filed the lawsuit claiming that 3M’s claim of superiority and patent protection was unfairly preventing them from obtaining a supply contract.

The lawsuit disclosed that 3M and predecessor Aearo Technologies may have falsified testing information, leading the military to believe that the earplugs provided more protection than they did in actual use. The whistleblower lawsuit was settled with an $11 million fine, some of which was paid to Moldex-Metric.

3M did not admit any wrongdoing but no longer provides the Combat Arms CAEV2 to the military, though they continue to sell the E-A-R Arc Plug device which is virtually identical.

3M EAR Arc Earplug Hearing Loss & Tinnitus Lawsuits

Workers who were injured or suffered hearing loss or damage while using 3M E-A-R Arc Plug earplugs are filing personal injury or product liability lawsuits to seek compensation for medical costs, treatment costs, pain and suffering and other damages.

Claims for hearing loss related to 3M earplugs used in the workplace may include compensation for:

  • Past medical costs including medications, specialists, testing and therapy
  • Expected future medical costs
  • Hearing aid cost
  • Quality of life loss
  • Loss of income and loss of future income
  • Pain and suffering

There are no guarantees in a lawsuit and each case must be evaluated separately. Some areas may have limits on filing deadlines and legal assistance should be obtained as soon as possible.

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