You may be surprised to learn that some of the most common injuries suffered by the U.S military personnel aren’t broken legs or shrapnel wounds but noise-induced hearing loss.
As a result, the military is forced to spend a lot of money equipping servicemen and women with earplugs to mitigate against the effect. But what happens when the earplugs procured by the military are defective?
The 3M Combat Arms earplug manufacturer has the perfect answer to this question. The company is currently fighting lots of lawsuits accusing it of supplying the military with defective earplugs.
Veterans and soldiers are accusing 3M of knowingly defrauding the U.S military by failing to warn soldiers of its earplug’s defects and falsifying earplug test results.
Read this post to find out if you qualify to file for a 3M Combat Arms earplugs lawsuit.
What Are 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
Between 2003 and 2012, 3M was the sole supplier of Combat Arms earplugs to the U.S military for use in both training and combat.
3M’s earplugs are designed to provide two options for sound reduction depending on how the user wears them. If you wear the black end in the ear, all sound is blocked, but only loud noises are canceled if you wear the yellow end.
It means that you can still hear quieter sounds if you have the yellow end in your ears. Hundreds of thousands of soldiers and veterans wore the earplugs between 2003 and 2012.
In fact, the U.S Marine Corps was so convinced of the effectiveness of the earplugs that it ordered more than 20,000 pairs, temporarily depleting the national stock in 2003.
Unfortunately, it was later discovered that the earplugs had a design defect that could lead to hearing loss and other medical complications.
Combat Arms Earplugs Design Defects
According to already filed lawsuits, the stem of the earplugs was too short for soldiers to insert it deep enough into their ear canal to achieve a proper fitting.
The lack of proper fitting caused the earplug to loosen, unknown to the wearer. When the earplugs loosened, they didn’t provide proper protection.
Plaintiffs claim that Aearo Technologies, the original manufacturer of the earplugs, knew about this defect even before it secured a contract to sell the earplugs to the U.S military.
During testing, 3M would carefully roll back flanges on the yellow end to prevent the earplug from loosening. The company purposefully failed to inform the military of the defect so it could take appropriate measures to correct it.
It also failed to include instructions to fold back on the yellow end while inserting the earplug to prevent loosening. What is even more, the earplugs had been shortened to fit into the military carrying cases.
Misleading Test Results
Not only did 3M manufacture and sell defective earplugs to the U.S military, but they also misrepresented the efficacy of the product to the military and the soldiers using it.
Before the military had agreed to purchase the earplugs, 3M’s earplugs had to meet a specific Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) requirement. However, plaintiffs in the 3M Combat Arms earplugs lawsuits claim that the manufacturer misrepresented the results of the NRR tests to the U.S military.
The lawsuits claim that 3M failed to commission an independent lab to conduct the testing on the earplugs as military solicitations and the federal law demand.
Instead, the company decided to conduct the testing in-house without adhering to laid down protocol. In one of the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs lawsuits, the plaintiff states that the NRR required for the black end was 25-40 decibels and 0.25 decibels for the yellow end.
However, during testing, 3M discovered that the NRR for the black end was only 10.9 decibels on average. The results were quite disappointing, and they didn’t bother testing the yellow end. When tested independently, the yellow end only managed to reach -2 decibels.
At -2, it means that the yellow end amplified the noise instead of canceling it. Instead of functioning as a noise canceller, it served as a hearing aid.
3M retested the earplugs, and after folding the yellow flange, they achieved a 22 NRR for the black end and 0 for the yellow end. The company proceeded to report these results to the military.
Filing 3M Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuits
Servicemen and women who used Combat Arms earplugs between 2003 and 2015 and suffered a temporary or permanent hearing loss may be eligible for compensation.
The settlement amount you receive may help cover medical expenses you incurred, decreased quality of life, anxiety, depression, and other problems caused by your hearing loss.
So far, more than 200,000 3M Combat Arms Earplug lawsuits have already been filed in different courts and most of them are at the trial stage.
According to the Department of Defense, symptoms of combat-related hearing issues include:
- Difficulty hearing someone talking at least three meters away from you.
- Buzzing or ringing sound in the ears.
- Difficulties comprehending what people are saying.
- A feeling of “fullness” in your ears, especially after leaving a relatively noisy area such as a concert venue.
If you are a veteran currently receiving VA disability compensation for tinnitus (hearing loss), you will continue receiving your disability benefits even if you pursue a claim against 3M and succeed at it.
This is because the federal government awards disability compensation based on an individual’s ratings and not income. Therefore, a personal injury claim shouldn’t impact your benefits in any way.
Talk to an Attorney Today!
The first step to filing successful 3M Combat Arms earplugs lawsuits is talking to an experienced attorney who will assess your case and advise you accordingly. The attorney will also answer your questions and clarify some things you don’t understand.
If you or your loved one were issued with the defective earplugs while serving in the U.S military and have suffered hearing loss, talk to us today and learn more about a potential claim.
Our team of experienced lawyers is always ready to help you find the justice you deserve.