3M Military Earplugs Attorney
The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman is actively investigating claims on behalf of active service members and veterans who used 3M Co.’s Combat Arms earplugs and have suffered hearing loss, tinnitus or other ear damage.
The United States military purchased the double-ended earplugs to protect service members from hearing loss injuries. Veterans are likely to suffer conditions such as tinnitus and hearing loss in one or both ears. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says hearing loss is “by far the most prevalent service-connected disability among American veterans.”
Unfortunately, the earplugs didn’t work because they failed to properly seal inside the ear canal. As a result, soldiers who saw combat, performed certain training drills or otherwise worked in noisy environments often suffered serious and permanent hearing loss and damage.
If you were issued or purchased 3M Combat Arms earplugs, were exposed to loud noise when you used the earplugs and have since been diagnosed with a hearing problem, we encourage you to contact our law firm for a free and confidential consultation.
Our personal injury attorneys have been advocating for military service members, veterans and their families for more than 25 years and are committed to helping those who have served our country obtain the compensation that they are owed.Frequently Asked Questions About 3M Combat Arms Earplugs
- Who Can File a Claim Against 3M?
- Can I File a Lawsuit If I’m Receiving Veterans Disability Payments for a Hearing Loss?
- What Should I Do If I Don’t Think That I Can Afford to Hire a Lawyer?
Any current or former U.S. military service member who was issued and used 3M earplugs while on duty and later suffered any type of hearing loss or damage has a potential claim against 3M. This includes service members who have experienced full or partial hearing loss in one ear or both ears and other conditions such as tinnitus, which is characterized by a ringing or buzzing noise in one or both ears.
The earplugs at issue are 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (Version 2 - CAEv2).
There is evidence suggesting that the manufacturers of the earplugs knew about their problems but hid them from the public. In 2018, 3M paid $9.1 million to the U.S. Justice Department to resolve allegations that it knew about defects in the earplugs and failed to warn the military. It’s important to note that 3M did not admit to any wrongdoing, and the Justice Department did not make a determination of liability.
In general, the lawsuit claimed that as early as 2000 3M employees knew that the earplugs had defects that stopped them from forming a tight seal inside the ear. The company was still selling the earplugs to the military in 2015.
The earplugs were used by thousands of military personnel from 2003 to 2015 who were stationed in conflict zones, including Afghanistan and Iraq. The earplugs are double-ended and contain different sized tips. 3M claimed that the different sizes would allow every user to obtain a perfect seal. The safety devices were intended to block loud noises while allowing soldiers to communicate with one another.
Because of the double-ended design, soldiers had the ability to wear the earplugs in one of two ways. They were to insert the earplugs in the “closed” or “blocked” position to block all sound like a traditional earplug. They were to wear the earplug in the “open” or “unblocked” position to block or significantly reduce loud noises but still hear verbal orders or commands.
The earplugs were designed by a company called Aearo Technologies, which 3M acquired in 2008. In 2018, a whistleblower warned about the design flaw, which prompted the Justice Department to start an investigation.
The Combat Arms earplugs have since been discontinued.
To date, hundreds of thousands of lawsuits have been filed against 3M in courts in Massachusetts and across the country. Many of these individual suits have been combined into what’s known as a multidistrict litigation, or mass tort. By grouping cases together, a speedier resolution can be achieved. In a short amount of time, the Combat Arms earplug litigation has grown to be the largest mass tort in history, eclipsing other large mass torts, including those involving asbestos, Johnson & Johnson talc products and Bayer’s Roundup weedkiller.Hearing Problems Reported by Soldiers Who Wore 3M Earplugs
Soldiers who wore 3M Combat Arms earplugs report long-term damage, including:
- Other hearing loss
- Balance problems
People with tinnitus report a buzzing, humming, hissing or ringing noise in the ears. This condition can make it extremely difficult for people to hear someone speaking from only three feet away. Individuals can have tinnitus in one or both ears. Complications of tinnitus include fatigue, sleep problems, memory problems, depression and headaches.
Pulsatile tinnitus occurs as a rhythmic pulsing or whooshing sound, often in tandem with a person’s heartbeat. This type of tinnitus is rare.
While anyone can experience tinnitus, certain factors increase a person’s risk such as exposure to loud noise. In addition to soldiers, factory workers and construction workers are at a high risk of developing tinnitus and other hearing problems.
Although tinnitus is common in veterans, there are no objective tests to diagnose the condition.
Soldiers who are exposed to sounds that are too loud, too close or last too long can sustain damage to delicate hairs and cells in the inner ear. These microscopic hair cells, which are known as cilia, lack the ability to repair themselves. A soldier’s hearing loss can occur over time or as the result of a single exposure to an intense noise such as artillery fire or a bomb blast.
Men and older adults are more likely to experience tinnitus. As people age, the number of working nerve fibers in their ears decrease, leading to hearing problems connected to tinnitus. Other high-risk groups include people who drink and smoke and those who have health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure and arthritis.Veterans are Likely to Suffer Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
It’s not uncommon for service members and veterans to report hearing loss or some other type of hearing problem. The Department of Veterans Affairs reports that more than 1.7 million veterans receive military disability benefits for tinnitus and more than 1.1 million receive compensation for hearing loss. The cause of most hearing problems among veterans is caused by noise exposure from gunfire, aircraft, tanks and bombs, according to the agency.
Hearing damage occurs at noise levels that exceed 85 decibels. Here’s a look at some different noises and noise levels that soldiers and other military personnel are likely to encounter:
- Ambulance – 85 dB
- Cargo transport – 88 dB
- Helicopter – 105 dB
- Tank – 115 dB
- Pistol and rifle fire – 157 dB
- Grenade (at 50 feet) – 164 dB
- Antitank missile – 166 dB
- Heavy Artillery – 185 dB
- Recoilless Rifle – 190 dB
Researchers have found that veterans with tinnitus often have anxiety, depression or both. In one study, researchers found that 72% of veterans with tinnitus also had a diagnosis of anxiety, 59% had depression and 58% suffered from both conditions.
The VA also notes that many veterans score normally on hearing tests but have problems understanding speech. This condition is known as auditory processing disorder and is often associated with blast exposure. A blast can affect not only the ear but also the connection between a person’s ear and brain. People with auditory processing dysfunction hear sounds correctly, but their brains have a difficult time deciphering the message. In 2014, the agency linked service members’ exposure to jet propulsion fuel to auditory processing problems.
In some cases, hearing loss can be reversed through surgery or medication. In other cases, the loss is permanent but can be improved through the use of hearing aids.
You can read more about the VA’s research on hearing loss here.
To learn more about how our personal injury attorneys can help you with a 3M military earplug claim, contact The Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman, LLC today at (617) 777-7777 or through our online form.