In military conflicts starting in 2001 for over ten years, all branches of the United States military exclusively used Version 2 of 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs. Army, Navy, Marine, and Air Force veterans wore these earplugs to protect against hearing damage often caused by common loud noises experienced during military activity. However, due to design flaws, the earbuds were eventually found to be defective, which was made public by a whistleblower after a majority of service members returned home suffering from hearing damage and loss. It was discovered that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into the ear and would loosen in the ear canal, which resulted in the damage. If you are a U.S. veteran having served between 2003-2015, you may qualify to file a claim against 3M, formerly Aearo Technologies.
-Served in the military in the timeframe between 2003-2015
-Used U.S. military-issued Version 2 of 3M Combat Arms Earplugs during your service
-Suffer from Tinnitus, full, or partial hearing loss, and your diagnosis occurred as a result of your use of the earplugs during service.
-Served during any of these conflicts:
The dual-sided, cone-shaped earplugs were designed to be used on two different ends, each providing a different level of protection. One side was designed to provide noise cancellation in cases as loud as gunfire or explosions, and the other end allowed for more partial cancellation, to enable partial hearing in some instances, such as conversation happening during a loud din.
However, it was discovered that the earplugs had a design defect that 3M and Aearo Technologies knew about since initial, pre-release testing in 2000, but didn’t disclose this to the U.S. Military and falsified certification of Version 2 of 3M Combat Arms Earplugs. 3M (then Aearo Technologies), stated that the earplugs met the designated noise reduction rating of 22NRR, which would protect soldiers from hearing damage when they only met an approximate NRR of 10.9. Further testing phases of the product highlighted an additional defect; that the buds themselves were too short and would become loose in the ear. These design flaws resulted in significant hearing damage suffered by service members who used them for hearing protection.
According to the CDC, those who served in the military during 2001 and 2010 during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom were four times more likely to have endured hearing loss than those who did not serve in the military at all. In 2017, the Veterans Benefits Administration reported that auditory disabilities were mostly responsible for treatment covered between the years 2013 and 2017, with an approximate 3.1 million service members treated in 2017 alone. The VA reported that both Tinnitus and full or partial hearing loss are the first and second-most disabilities related to service treated, and there may be more cases than estimated since it’s possible some don’t report their disability.
The company 3M eventually acquired Aearo Technologies, who initially developed the earplugs. The U.S. Department of Justice claims that employees at 3M who were transfers from Aearo Technologies knew about the defect since testing in 2000. Both companies failed to notify the government.
In 2018, a company called Moldex-Metric, Inc. blew the whistle on 3M, stating that Both 3M and Aearo Technologies were aware of the product defect since the year 2000, even when they became the exclusive provider of earplugs to the military. Moldex-Metric, Inc’s allegations were filed through the False Claims Act, which was enacted during the Civil War. Under the act, penalties are allowed to entities responsible for “falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product, or under-stating an obligation to the government.” The company also alleged that the U.S. Government had endured significant medical costs that went towards treating veterans with hearing damage as a result of the use of the earplugs. In 2018, 3M settled with the U.S. Government for $9.1 million, resolving the claim that they knew they were willingly selling defective earplugs to the military. Moldex-Metric, Inc. received $9.1 for blowing the whistle.
Our soldiers, who face dire conditions while serving, must be provided with proper protection because they work to protect the citizens of our country. If a company works with the government and the military, equipment used by government employees and soldiers should meet quality protective standards. Companies withholding vital information out of neglect and greed should be held accountable for any damage they do as a result of withholding.
Zaner Harden Law is proud to provide legal assistance to our country’s service members. In a recent report by the V.A., approximately 2.6 million veterans are receiving compensation for hearing disabilities. If you or a family member served in the military between the years 2003 and 2015 and suffer from Tinnitus or hearing damage, you may be eligible to receive compensation. At Zaner Harden Law, our compassionate, experienced attorneys are here to help you. We invite you to request a free, confidential consultation with one of our car accident attorneys so that you can get your questions answered and the attention your claim deserves. Call us today or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment and meet our team.