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. Continue reading