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3M supplied the U.S. military with Dual-Ended Combat Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) between 2003 and 2015. Although these earplugs were designed to protect service members from hearing issues while training or in combat, they actually led to permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. After a whistleblower revealed that the earplugs had a design flaw in 2018, 3M paid $9.1 million to the federal government for selling them defective earplugs, despite knowing about the flaw.

If you are a current or former service member of the U.S. military who has used a defective 3M earplug, our legal team at Cooper, Barton & Cooper can help you recover financial compensation through a product liability lawsuit against 3M. We have more than 75 years of collective legal experience representing clients who have suffered an injury caused by negligence.

Am I Eligible to File a Lawsuit?

You may be eligible to file a lawsuit if all the following facts are true:

  • You were a U.S. military service member between 2003 and 2015
  • You used the dual-sided earplugs from 3M
  • You have been diagnosed with hearing loss, tinnitus, or other hearing issues

Why Are 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Defective?

The CAEv2 earplugs are dual-ended, which means they can be used as traditional earplugs (green/olive side) that block out all sounds or enable the user to only hear low-level sounds (yellow side) such as verbal commands while blocking out extremely loud noises (e.g.gunfire, explosions, etc.). However, the green/olive side of the earplugs was actually too short to be properly inserted into a user’s ears, causing them to gradually loosen and fail to provide adequate noise protection, while the yellow side didn’t block any sound.

Did 3M Know the Earplugs Were Defective?

In 2016, Moldex Metric Inc.—an earplug manufacturing competitor—filed a whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. According to the complaint, both 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies Inc., knew that the earplugs can gradually and subtly come loose during use.

3M allegedly found these defects while testing the earplugs in 2000. After testing eight subjects out of ten, the results showed earplugs that were in the open position (yellow side inserted) earned an average noise reduction rating (NRR) of 10.9, which is significantly lower than the expected 22 NRR rating. When further testing resumed, all ten subjects had results showing an NRR of -2, meaning the earplugs amplified sound, rather than blocking it. Yet, 3M changed the NRR to 0 and claimed the soldiers would have the ability to hear spoken commands during service.

When testing the closed position (green/olive side inserted), the stem was too short and cannot be properly inserted deep enough for an adequate fit. However, if the third flange of the yellow side were folded prior to insertion, the earplugs worked better and obtained a 22 NRR.

Unfortunately, 3M never included the effective fitting instructions in each package. Instead of disclosing these defects, 3M falsely claimed that CAEv2 earplugs fulfilled the standards of the military contract.

What Hearing Problems Have Service Members Reported?

Many service members reported they suffered long-term injuries such as permanent hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance issues. Most of them claim 3M led the government and soldiers to believe the earplugs would protect their hearing from damaging sounds during training or service.

Hearing loss is one of the most common health issues reported by soldiers. They initially experience temporary hearing loss when noise tires out the inner ear; however, continuous noise exposure causes the ear to lose its ability to repair itself and lead to permanent hearing loss, as well as cell and membrane damage and nerve damage.

Tinnitus is also known as the ringing in the ears and is a symptom of hearing loss. Many soldiers who have been diagnosed with tinnitus report ringing, buzzing, clicking, hissing, and roaring noises, which vary from low to high and occurs in both ears.

Not only can these hearing issues decrease a person’s quality of life, but they also limit job opportunities.

Call (478) 202-7050 for a Free Consultation Today

Although your hearing may never return, our Macon military earplug attorney can help recover medical expenses, lost wages, and other damages as a result of wearing 3M earplugs during your time in the military. Do not hesitate to let us hold 3M accountable for their negligence on your behalf.

Contact us today to discuss your case with our legal team.

Disclaimer: Cooper, Barton & Cooper reserves the option to partner with outside attorneys and counsel to provide our clients with high level representation. Every case is different, and regardless of what friends, family, or other individuals may claim a case is worth, each case must be evaluated on its own facts and circumstances in regard to the law. The valuation of a case depends on the facts, the injuries, jurisdiction, venue, witnesses, parties, and testimony, among other factors. Please contact Cooper, Barton & Cooper if you have questions or feel you may have a claim. Contacting us does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please do not send confidential information to us until such time as an attorney-client relationship has been established. Additionally, we provide medical information that does not, nor is it intended to, replace professional medical advice, diagnosis and treatment.

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