Military personnel deal with countless risks in their everyday lives, including exposure to incredibly loud noises. U.S. military veterans are 30% more likely to suffer hearing loss than the average citizen. During their service they may be exposed to noises from gunfire, explosions, heavy machinery, plane and jet engines, and much more. Military personnel have enough to worry about, and hearing loss is a preventable injury that ought to be taken seriously.
Defective dual-ended military earplugs have come under fire recently, likely enlarging the risk factor of hearing problems to four times as likely as the average citizen. The earplugs were manufactured by 3M Corporation as part of a deal with the U.S. military and were issued to service members deployed between 2002 and 2015. They were issued to protect service members from loud noises associated with their service, while still allowing them to hear low volume noises such as peers trying to communicate with them. 3M was the exclusive supplier of earplugs to the military at this time. After it was discovered that over 2 million service members have deafness and ringing in their ears, authorities found that the earplugs did not protect against what they claimed to. The result: thousands suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus who are now bringing suit against 3M.
This litigation was originally brought by Moldex-Metric, Inc., 3M’s rival company. The U.S. Department of Justice joined the case soon after. The earplugs at issue, The Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2, was designed by Aero Technologies with a defective seal that allowed dangerously loud noise to penetrate the ears. Evidence surfaced that the company knew of these defects dating back to testing done in 2000 and failed to inform the military. When 3M acquired Aero several years later, they continued these deceptive practices. The poor design allows the earplugs to become dislodged and allows high levels of noise to enter the ears and cause damage. The packaging also had improper instructions, increasing the chances of hearing damage.
In 2018, The U.S. Department of Justice reached an agreement with 3M, in which they would pay a $9.1 million settlement to the government. The company has yet to remedy the toll on former military personnel and has not yet admitted liability.
Thousands of service members were injured using these earplugs. They may experience:
- Total or partial deafness
- Ringing or buzzing sounds in the ears
- Continuous or intermittent tinnitus
There are few treatments for hearing damage, and many cases prove to be uncurable. If you served in the military after 2002 and suffered hearing loss, compensation may be your only remedy. You may be able to receive monetary damages from 3M including costs associated with medical care, lost income, pain and suffering, and possibly more. An increasing number of injured plaintiffs are bringing these products liability suits. There have not yet been any settlements to individual plaintiffs, mostly due to the sheer volume of cases against 3M involving these earplugs.
Any combat veteran who utilized these earplugs and suffered hearing loss or damage as a result should contact the law offices of Altman & Altman LLP today to see if you may qualify for financial compensation pending the result of this suit.
We have over 50 years of experience holding companies accountable for defective products and 3M has no excuse for allowing a known defective product to be given to our heroic men and women in the armed forces. To schedule your free consultation with an experienced Boston, Massachusetts products liability lawyer at Altman & Altman LLP, call 617.492.3000 or 800.481.6199 (toll free) or contact us online.