A class action lawsuit filed against 3M by military members alleges faulty earplugs designed by the company caused hearing loss for many user. Those affected are seeking damages including medical expenses and back pay. In addition to their loss of hearing, veterans also experienced mental anguish, physical pain, and other issues as a result of their hearing loss.
United States military personnel in combat zones received 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs while undergoing training. The earplugs were supposed to protect their hearing from loud noises, including gunshots and explosions.
Soldiers serving in a number of locations were given the earplugs, including:
- North-West Pakistan
- Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
The earplugs featured a dual-ended design which meant they could work like traditional earplugs, but when turned around, also provided protection against concussive sounds while allowing soldiers to hear speaking and other low-level sounds.
Combat Arms Earplugs Did Not Perform as Claimed
Unfortunately, the soldiers who utilized the earplugs experienced hearing loss, despite claims about the devices effectiveness.
The problem with the earplugs was discovered when a former 3M employee came forward about the defect. Additionally, the whistleblower claimed that 3M had concealed the design defects from the government. According to the employee, 3M had known since 2000 that the earplugs did not work, but still chose to put soldiers at risk for permanent hearing loss.
Furthermore, there were reports that 3M had conducted faulty internal testing on the earplugs to cover up the fact that they did not work.
Those accusations were made in a lawsuit filed by the former employee against 3M under the federal False Claims Act. It resulted in a $9 million settlement, but that amount does not compensate the military members directly affected.
3M and US Government Settle over Ineffective Earplugs
Last July, 3M agreed to settle with the federal government for more than $9 million regarding the faulty earplugs. Despite the settlement, 3M admitted to no wrongdoing.
Users claim the earplugs weren’t long enough for proper insertion and because of the length, the earplugs would loosen in some users’ ears and not provide any hearing protection.
Veterans Allege They Developed Tinnitus after Using 3M Earplugs
Several plaintiffs claim they developed tinnitus, a condition that causes ongoing ringing in the ears. Many of them must use hearing aids to hear normally. It is believed that at a minimum, hundreds of thousands of military members have been affected by the defective earplugs. Attorneys for plaintiffs believe 3M deliberately withheld information from the Pentagon.
Veterans who were affected by the faulty earplugs face permanent hearing loss and were affected permanently. Those who suffered hearing loss as a result of their service are eligible to apply for VA disability benefits and could receive compensation as a result of eventual legal settlements.
Unfortunately tinnitus tends to be an ongoing problem that interferes with a person’s quality of life. It’s one of the most common health issues faced by Americans and the CDC estimates that about 20 million people deal with chronic tinnitus, which in some cases is debilitating.
The condition is considered chronic when it occurs for at least five minutes of at least twice a week. Often, those who are dealing with chronic tinnitus experience it far more frequently than that, with some people reporting they feel as if they have a constant ringing in their ears.
Curing and Treating Tinnitus
There is no cure for tinnitus. A wide variety of treatment options are available, but none of them is scientifically proven to completely eliminate the condition. Even after undergoing treatment, a person might occasionally experience tinnitus. Treatment only eases the symptoms so the condition interferes less with a person’s quality of life.
One of the best options for coping with tinnitus is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Exposure to loud noises increase a person’s risk for tinnitus, so the more you can do to protect your hearing the better.
Learn more about 3M earplug lawsuits.