Thousands of U.S. soldiers and veterans are believed to have suffered hearing loss and tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) because of defective earplugs sold by 3M Company to the U.S. government. 3M’s defective earplugs, known as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (version 2), did not function as 3M claimed they would function. The earplugs were not long enough to be inserted properly into a soldier’s ears. The design prevented a snug fit in the ear canal of the user, causing the earplugs to become loose and exposing the user to dangerous levels of noise.
These earplugs were originally created by a company called Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M in 2008. The earplugs were sold to the military from 2003-2015. It is believed that more than 1 million service members were issued 3M’s earplugs while engaging in various combat missions during foreign wars. These defective 3M earplugs have never been recalled and therefore, could still be in use by soldiers and other government employees.
Aearo Technologies was allegedly aware of the defect in the earplugs as early as year 2000, when it began testing the effectiveness of the earplugs. Earplugs like the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs are sold with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR), which is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices. The higher the NRR number associated with a hearing protector, such as earplugs, the greater the potential for noise reduction. The U.S. government claimed that 3M and Aearo Technologies manipulated the results of the tests of the effectiveness of the earplugs in order to meet the U.S. government’s required standards. As a result of the fraudulent activities and misrepresentations by 3M and Aearo Technologies, thousands of U.S. veterans suffer from permanent loss of hearing and tinnitus. Current or former military personnel who are suffering from hearing loss caused by 3M’s defective earplugs may have claims for compensation against 3M. Under the law, claims of this type must be filed within a certain time period or the claim will be barred by law, so you should not delay in contacting an attorney who has experience handling these types of unique cases.