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A whistleblower lawsuit brought by the federal government against Minnesota-based 3M alleged that the company knowingly supplied defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military. The company is accused of violating the “False Claims Act” by selling the defective products, falsifying test results and not disclosing the design defect. The company’s negligent actions exposed thousands of U.S. servicemembers to military hearing loss over 12 years. Veterans with hearing problems who served in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015 may be able to file a 3M earplug lawsuit.

The Veteran Legal Assistance Program stands with the men and women who wear a uniform and their families alike. Our representatives are ready to guide you on the road to recovery. We will help you understand your rights and determine what your next steps should be. We will advocate tirelessly on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.

Why Did the U.S. Government Sue 3M Over Earplugs?

Between 2003 and 2015, 3M supplied the U.S. military with defective earplugs. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Dual-Ended Combat Earplugs supplied by 3M were too short for proper insertion into the ears. This design defect put users at risk of permanent hearing loss, impairment and tinnitus.

Despite knowing about the defects as early as 2000, 3M—the exclusive manufacturer of earplugs for deployed soldiers at the time—failed to disclose product defects to the proper officials. The defects in question led to a decrease in effectiveness of the earplugs supplied to the U.S. military.

What does the 3M earplug lawsuit allege?

The settlement between the U.S. government alleges that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies Inc., were aware that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. As a result of the design flaw, the earplugs can gradually loosen in such a subtle way that the wearers may not notice. When this occurs, the earplugs do not perform the desired noise cancellation.

How did the information come to light?

In 2016, competing ear plug manufacturer Moldex Metric Inc. filed a Whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. The complaint alleges that both 3M and Aero Technologies both knew about the defects in the earplugs. Also, the suit alleges that the companies set up fraudulent testing to comply with U.S. military standards.

What Are the Health Risks of Using Defective Earplugs?

Among military veterans, the most common service-connected disabilities are hearing impairments including military hearing loss and tinnitus. In fact, studies show that military veterans are four times more likely than nonveterans to have a severe hearing impairment. Naturally, the military has increased emphasis on both improving military hearing conservation programs and decreasing hearing loss.

Between 2003-2015, there were more than 1.56 million active infantrymen deployed to U.S. war zones. This accounts for approximately 20 percent of the American military. Veteran affairs reports show that hearing loss and tinnitus rose dramatically between 2003-2015, peaking in 2012.

At some point in their careers, those serving in the military will be exposed to high-intensity noise levels. This is especially true for those who deploy to war zones. For this reason, combat soldiers need in-ear hearing protection. Long-term exposure to high volume sounds such as engines, RPGs and other weapons can leave veterans with:

Varying levels of permanent military hearing loss
Deafness
Permanent hearing damage
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

If you served in the military between 2003-2015 and suffered military hearing loss or tinnitus after using defective 3M earplugs, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact a VLAP representative to discuss your rights. Call today to discuss your potential military hearing loss lawsuit.

Which Service Members Have a Claim Against 3M?

3M was the exclusive manufacturers of earplugs for the U.S. military for those were deployed to a war zone. Vets who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone would most likely have used these earplugs.

Millions of service members were issued the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. As a result, several service members were exposed to damaging sound levels. Those who received defective and dangerous earplugs while fighting between 2003-2015 in the following:

War of Afghanistan
Iraq War
War in North-West Pakistan
War in Somalia
American-led intervention in Libya
Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
American-led interventions in Iraq (2014-2017)
American-led intervention in Syria (2014 to present)

Are You Dealing with Military Hearing Loss or Tinnitus?

If you or a vet you know is dealing with military hearing loss or tinnitus, contact us to schedule a free consultation, to learn about your legal rights. In addition, in many of these cases, there is no treatment available to reverse the effects of hearing loss and tinnitus.

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