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3M Military Earplug Lawsuits


3M Combat Earplugs Left U.S. Troops and Veterans with Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs are known as “selective attenuation earplugs.” The plugs looked like two inverted cones connected at the bottom with a cylinder stem and were developed to provide two different levels of protection. One cone provided ear protection while still allowing the user to hear speech while the other cone provided greater noise suppression.

However, a whistleblower lawsuit claims the stem that connects the two cones was too short and did not allow the earplugs to go deep enough into the ear to provide protection. According to the complaint, the 3M earplugs would “loosen in the wearers ear, imperceptibly to the wearer and event trained audiologists visually observing the wearer, thereby permitting damaging sounds to enter the ear canal by traveling around the outside of the earplug.”

As a result, service members may have developed hearing loss and tinnitus.

The whistleblower lawsuit further alleges that the defect was discovered as early as 2000 and that 3M and Aearo Technologies, the original manufacturer of the earplugs, manipulated test results to make it appear that the devices met government standards.

U.S. Government Awarded $9.1 Million in 3M Earplug Lawsuit

Minnesota-based manufacturer 3M Company recently agreed to pay the U.S. Government $9.1 million to settle allegations that it knowingly sold defective combat ear plugs to the U.S. military without disclosing defects that limited the effectiveness of the hearing protection products.

The defective earplugs were issued to thousands of service members deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan from 2003 to 2015.

Symptoms of  Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

Tinnitus is the most common disability among veterans, due to their exposure to damaging levels of sound such as gunfire, aircraft noise, loud machinery, and explosions, and is itself a symptom of hearing loss. Tinnitus can result in long-term life-altering consequences, including difficulty sleeping, trouble hearing, and difficulty concentrating.

Depending on the sufferer, the tinnitus can result in different “sounds” at varying volumes. Tinnitus may come in the form of:

  • Ringing
  • Hissing
  • Clicking
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Whistling

Other symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly, or loudly
  • Withdrawal from conversations
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio

Additional Information About Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Depending on the intensity and length of exposure to a sound, noise-induced hearing loss can occur suddenly or take years to be noticeable. Typically, a sound of less than 75 decibels is considered safe. For reference, average decibel ratings for familiar sounds include:

  • The humming of a refrigerator: 45 decibels
  • Normal conversation: 60 decibels
  • Noise from heavy city traffic: 85 decibels
  • Motorcycles: 95 decibels
  • An MP3 player at maximum volume: 105 decibels
  • Sirens: 120 decibels
  • Firecrackers and firearms: 150 decibels

Additionally, when hearing loss occurs, doctors classify the severity of the loss by degrees:

Doctors classify hearing loss by degrees.

  • Mild hearing loss: One-on-one conversations are fine, but it’s hard to catch every word when there’s background noise.
  • Moderate hearing loss: You often need to ask people to repeat themselves during conversations in person and on the phone.
  • Severe hearing loss: Following a conversation is almost impossible unless you have a hearing aid.
  • Profound hearing loss: You can’t hear when other people speaking, unless they are extremely loud. You can’t understand what they’re saying without a hearing aid or cochlear implant.

Do You Suffer from Tinnitus or Hearing Loss Caused by Defective Military Earplugs?

If you were issued 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs while in the military and now suffer from tinnitus or hearing loss, contact Thomas J. Henry immediately. For the past 25 years, our experienced product liability attorneys haven handled a multitude of defective product cases and have litigated against some of the largest companies in the world. Our extensive legal and financial resources allow us to provide our clients with truly dynamic legal representation.

Let us help you recover the compensation you are entitled to. Our firm has offices in Corpus ChristiSan Antonio, Austin, and Houston, serving clients across Texas and nationwide. Contact us today for a free case review.



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