The purpose of the two sides is to, in theory, provide hearing protection at two levels, giving soldiers more options and flexibility for adjusting noise reduction based on the levels and concentration of sound to which they are being exposed. 3M marketed this feature as “selective attenuation.”
The 3M combat earplugs’ dual ended design theoretically presents two different hearing protection devices.
The dark green end of the earplug serves as a closed-position earplug, preventing the flow of all sound through the ear canal. A soldier would insert the green end of the earplug in situations where they face high, constant noise levels, for example when working around aircraft, machinery, watercraft, and armored vehicles.
The yellow end of the earplug was intended to serve as the open-position device, dampening the level of loud noises, while still enabling the soldier to hear important spoken commands, approaching vehicles, or enemies. A soldier would insert the yellow end of the earplug in situations where they encounter intermittent, unexpected loud sounds, like explosions. With this design, the soldier would protect their hearing while still being able to receive critical spoken communications to do their job and stay safe.
Although the conceptual design for the dual-ended earplug would have served the troops well, each end failed in its intended purpose.
For starters, the earplug stem was too short, and so soldiers were unable to correctly insert either end into their ear canals. A large flange on the unused end would not allow the in-use side to penetrate a significant distance into the ear. The earplug would unwedge itself, unbeknownst to the wearer. In testing, the flange was rolled back to circumvent the blocking problem, but this workaround was not communicated to soldiers as a requirement for the earplug to work effectively.
The fitting problem reduced the effectiveness of both sides.
The yellow end was not effective in dampening noises and, in fact, actually amplified the sounds. This amplification made it difficult for soldiers to hear commands and protect themselves. Testing of this capability did not follow the required standards and generated more favorable results than what the earplug was actually delivering.
The noise of combat proved to be particularly damaging to soldiers who thought their ears were protected.
The U.S. government filed a lawsuit against 3M, facilitated by a whistleblower action provided for under the False Claims Act, from a 3M competitor. 3M agreed to a settlement of $9.1 million to be paid to the government. The whistleblower will receive $1,911,000 for exposing the fraud.
Now it is veterans’ turn to collect compensation from 3M for the hearing loss, tinnitus, and other damages suffered as the result of the company’s defective hearing protection devices.
Thousands of veterans have filed individual lawsuits against the manufacturer. Because of the similarity of the questions of fact in these cases, those pending have been centralized and transferred to a U.S. District Court in Northern Florida for Multidistrict Litigation (MDL).
You can join other veterans in receiving compensation from 3M if you served in the military between 2003 and 2015, and you meet the following criteria:
Depending on the level of tinnitus or hearing impairment you have suffered as a result of using the 3M Combat earplugs, you may receive compensation for the following types of damages:
Zanes Law would be honored to champion your right for compensation from 3M. We consider the company’s fraudulent actions, all committed with complete disregard for the safety and well-being for the service men and women fighting to protect our country, to be of the most egregious type of offense.
We will fight with all our might for you to recover the damages you have suffered. We will do everything from A to Z to get you the compensation you deserve in a 3M defective earplugs lawsuit.