3M Company Knowingly Sold Defective Earplugs to the U.S. Military
3M’s Dual-Ended Combat ArmsTM Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), which are now no longer in production, were given to thousands of service men and servicewomen from 2003 to 2015 – putting them at risk for serious and permanent effects, including partial or total hearing loss and tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears.
3M’s earplugs were designed to be used as either standard earplugs or they could be turned around to provide the user with normal hearing while at the same time, protecting the eardrums from gunfire, explosions or aircraft noise.
The claims filed against 3M state that their earplugs did not function as described, and were, in fact, not long enough to be properly inserted into a service member’s ears. Gradually, the earplugs loosen and become completely useless to the user.
3M was aware of their design problems years before they became standard issue in the armed services. 3M knew that the earplugs failed to pass safety test after safety test, but still chose to sell the defective devices to the U.S. military.
In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced that 3M “agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) to the U.S. military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.” Specifically, the U.S. had alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform properly, putting service members at risk for hearing loss and tinnitus (i.e. ringing or other noise in the ears). The U.S. further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss Caused By 3M Earplugs
The defective earplugs may have caused significant hearing loss in military veterans, including combat veterans who did tours in Afghanistan or Iraq, reserve members who were stateside but routinely fired weapons for training, and Navy and Air Force personnel.
Many affected military members receive partial disability and hearing aids from the Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), but they may still be entitled to compensation from 3M for injuries they suffered, including tinnitus, hearing loss, or other health issues caused by 3M’s earplugs.