The issue with the defective 3M earplugs is a large flange that blocks the sides and prevents the earplugs from fully penetrating the ear. Due to this defect, the hearing protection devices fit loosely and fail to form an effective enough seal to block out loud sounds.
If you suffered hearing damage due to the defective earplugs, you may be entitled to financial compensation. A personal injury lawyer who regularly handles product liability cases could help you hold the negligent manufacturer responsible for your hearing loss and related damages.
Contact us today for a free case evaluation.
How 3M Sold the Military on the Faulty Earplugs
3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were provided to military personnel as standard issue gear when the U.S. Department of Defense turned to these devices as a solution to the growing problem of hearing loss amongst troops.
The earplugs were marketed to the government by touting their low unit cost. Additionally, their dual-ended design made them beneficial for blocking varying sound levels and adapting to the intensity or consistency of loud sounds a soldier was exposed to.
The defect in the 3M earplugs was that they did not properly fit into the users’ ears, leading to an inadequate seal and allowing dangerous levels of sound to pass through. The earplugs were designed with a dual-ended design, a stem that was too short, and a flange that was too stiff. This caused the stems to be inserted into the ear canal.
Design Defects Involving the Yellow Side of the 3Ms
When a company called Aearo Technologies (later purchased by 3M) pitched their Combat Arms earplugs to the U.S. government, they claimed the yellow side of the devices offered a 0-decibel rating, as required by the military.
With this rating, the manufacturer stated that service members could hear spoken commands while blocking out intermittent, loud sounds like explosions.
The yellow side of the device was supposed to facilitate an “open” position. While open, the product was supposed to reduce the volume of intermittent noises while still allowing the soldier to hear auditory commands and approaching vehicles. Unfortunately, the yellow sides failed to perform as indicated.
According to the complaint filed by Moldex against 3M on behalf of the government, manufacturer testing of the yellow end resulted in a rating of -2, indicating sound amplification, as an individual would experience while using a hearing aid. The manufacturers also refused to comply with testing requirements.
Green Side Defects of the 3M Devices
Lawsuits filed against Aearo/3M further indicate defects on the green side of the earplugs. Manufacturers allegedly falsified the earplugs’ decibel-reduction rating to indicate it would provide protection in times of constant high-decibel-level sounds, such as during loud combat.
An unfortunate design defect prevented this feature from ever serving its intended purpose.
The green side of the earplug is the “closed” position. When the user placed this end into their ear, all noise was blocked. The green side was supposed to be ideal for soldiers exposed to constant loud noises.
Design Flaw With the Combat Arms V2 Model
The earplug stems for the Combat Arms product are simply too short. Because of this flaw, users cannot correctly insert the earplugs into their ear canals. This is the case with both ends.
The issue is a sizeable flange that blocks the side in use from properly and fully entering the ear. As a result, the earplugs can gradually loosen and do not form an effective enough seal to block out the eardrum-damaging sound.
Aearo/3M concealed the detrimental effects of their design by rolling back the flange on the unused end of the earplug while the other end was inserted into the ear.
Adding to the egregious nature of this fraud, the manufacturers failed to instruct soldiers on how to properly insert and use their products to overcome these shortcomings. As a result, thousands of service members suffered permanent damage, all for the sake of profit.
Veterans Are Filing Lawsuits for the Hearing Loss and Tinnitus They Have Sustained
A whistleblower has come forward, asserting that 3M and its predecessor company had knowledge of the design flaws in their product as early as 2000. Still, the companies continued to sell them to the U.S. military for over a decade without addressing the defects.
The whistleblower lawsuit also revealed that the earplugs’ flaws made them too loose inside wearers’ ears, causing them to fail safety tests, yet they were still sold without warnings or instructions for checking the fit before use. This led to more veterans filing lawsuits.
With so many cases involving similar complaints against 3M, a Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation has centralized them as 3M Combat Arms Earplug Products Liability Litigation MDL No. 2885.
Due to this panel, the court will handle many of the pretrial matters, such as admissible evidence for pending cases and streamlining the judicial process.
Learn about your eligibility by reaching out to our experienced hearing loss lawsuit lawyer.
Who Could Be Affective by the Defective Earplugs?
The defective military earplugs have affected thousands of servicemembers and veterans, potentially compromising their hearing. This incident concerns Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2) designed by 3M that were issued between 2003 and 2015 by the U.S. Defense Logistics Agency to those involved in active service or who had recently returned from deployment.
Any personnel serving in Iraq or Afghanistan during this time will likely have been issued these faulty devices without knowing the consequences on their hearing.
Since it has been recognized that these devices were ineffective at protecting listening health, a class action suit has been filed against 3M and its contractors, indicating that thousands of servicemembers’ lives have potentially been changed due to the defective product.
Lawsuits recognize both immediate noise-induced hearing loss and delayed issues such as tinnitus, a condition characterized by long-term ringing in the ears for which there is no cure. Tinnitus can inhibit the quality of life and cause serious issues, including depression, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, anger management difficulties, attention issues, stress, and even suicidal tendencies.
Tell Us What Happened
If you have sustained hearing loss or tinnitus from wearing 3M earplugs during your military service, you can still file a lawsuit against the manufacturer and pursue the compensation you deserve. You shouldn’t have to pay for someone else’s unethical behavior.
Zanes Law is dedicated to helping those who have suffered hearing loss due to using 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2). Our team will work tirelessly to see that you recover full compensation for your losses in a defective 3M earplug lawsuit. Contact us today for a free case review.