3M Combat Arms Ear PlugsDefect Can Cause Tinnitus and Hearing Loss

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3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs

Between 2003 and 2013, 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Version 2 was the exclusive product used by all branches of the United States military, including the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force, in numerous military conflicts. The 3M Arms Ear Plugs Version 2 was designed to protect against hearing loss from gunfire, explosions, bombings, and airfare.

Initially manufactured by Aero Technologies, but acquired by 3M in 2008, the dual-ended combat arms earbuds, which were intended to protect against hearing loss, were found to be defective. Instead of blocking soundwaves, the earbuds were too short for proper insertion in the ear canal, causing them to loosen in the ear and not properly protect our nation’s service members from potentially harmful sounds. Injuries as a result of the defective earbuds range from tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) to partial or total hearing loss.

If you suffer from tinnitus, hearing loss, partial or total hearing loss, you may qualify for a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs lawsuit.


Do I Qualify to Participate in a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit?

In order to qualify to participate in a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit, you must meet the following:

  • Served in the US military between 2003 and 2015
  • Must have used military issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs during military service
  • Must have been diagnosed with unilateral or bilateral hearing loss
  • Must NOT have any of the following:
    • Waardenburg syndrome
    • Branchiootorenal syndrome
    • Stickler syndrome
    • Usher syndrome
    • Pendred syndrome
    • Alport syndrome
    • Otosclerosis
    • Meniere’s disease


3M Deceptively Certified Earbuds Were Up to Standards

In 2003, the government issued an RFP, or government contract proposal, to Aero Technologies in which the company falsely certified the Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 was up to the designated standards by confirming they had a certain noise reduction rating (NPR) and would protect military members from damaging sounds. Proper testing was careless and negligent, yet the company confirmed to the government the earbuds tested at the required 22 NPR rate when in reality, the earbuds tested at an average rate of about 10.9 NPR, a vast difference. During testing, results showed the earbuds, in fact, were not as effective as intended, not only because of the lower NPR rate but also because of a design defect which caused them to loosen in the ear canal as a result of the earbud itself being too short to be properly inserted into the ear canal. According to a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice, 3M has known since as early as 2000 that the 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs were defective. After acquiring Aero, 3M hired Aero employees, including developers, who were aware of the product defect through pre-market testing in 2000.

Aero Technologies and its predecessor 3M failed to acknowledge the design defects to the United States government and military members.

The defective earbuds were standard issue to all military personnel during the following military conflicts:

  • The Iraq War
  • War in Afghanistan
  • War in North-West Pakistan (part of War on Terror)
  • War in Somalia
  • Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
  • American-led intervention in Libya (2011- part of Libyan Crisis)
  • American-led intervention in Iraq (2014 – 2017)
  • American-led Intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
  • Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
  • American Intervention in Libya (2015 to present)


Defect Allegedly Causes Hearing Loss

The earbuds were designed as an inverted cone shape to be used in two different ways. One allows the individual to insert one side of the earbuds into the ear canal that would still allow for some hearing, such as when needing to listen to a conversation, but more muted. The other end of the earbuds would provide more extensive noise protection, such as when around gunfire or airfare.

A major defect was not disclosed to the government. After providing the earbuds to servicemembers for years, the defect brought to light the significant hearing damage the earbuds could have caused to service members who used them. Rather than being a hearing protector, a lack of proper insertion into user’s ears caused irreparable hearing disabilities and loss.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, veterans who served overseas, specifically during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom between September 2001 and March 2010, were four times more likely to suffer from significant hearing loss than non-veterans.

According to the comprehensive 2017 Annual Benefits Report published by the Veterans Benefits Administration, auditory disabilities were the number two cause of treatment between 2013 and 2017. In 2017, 3,101,223 men and women were treated for auditory disabilities. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the top two service-connected disabilities treated by the Veteran’s Administration. Tinnitus accounts for 7.7%, or 1,786,980 and hearing loss accounts for 5.0% or 1,157,585 of all disabilities. However, the number of affected individuals may be higher because many do not report their injuries or seek treatment.

Proper protection for soldiers is vital when faced with life or death situations while protecting our country. For companies that do business with the government, all should be providing properly made safety equipment for military members.


What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the years. While not considered a medical condition, it is an underlying cause of medical issues such as an ear injury or Auditory processing disorder (APD). For military members who used the 3M Combat Arms Earbuds Version 2, tinnitus could be a result of permanent hearing damage from not being properly protected when around deafening noises while deployed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

If you believe you are suffering from tinnitus, hearing loss, or Auditory processing disorder (APD), contact a medical professional to diagnose your injuries.


Company Settles with Government Over Failure to Notify of Defect

In the summer of 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that it willingly and knowingly sold defective earbuds to the Defense Logistics Agency.

The whistleblower, Moldex-Metric, Inc., alleged that 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies knew about the defect since 2000 but withheld the information, even after becoming the sole provider of earplugs to thousands of servicemen and women, from the government.

According to a press release from Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad Readler of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the allegations were brought against 3M through the False Claims Act. Established during the Civil War, the False Claims Act is a federal statute that allows for criminal and civil penalties for “falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product, or under-stating an obligation to the government.”

“In addition to damages directly associated with the contractual cost of the earplugs,” the complaint stated, “The United States has been damaged by the large and ongoing medical costs associated with treating veterans who likely suffered hearing damage and impairment as a result of the defective earplugs.”

As part of the settlement, Moldex-Metrix, Inc., received $1.9 million.


Former Army Sergeant Files 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit Claiming Permanent Hearing Damage

In January 2019, a former Army Sergeant who was deployed to Iraq between 2003 and 2004 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, claims his tinnitus, hearing loss, and loss of balance was caused by the defective earbuds. The lawsuit will likely spark conversation among other military members prompting more lawsuits to be filed.

If you or a loved one heroically served our country and suffered from tinnitus or hearing loss as a result of the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs, you may qualify for a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs lawsuit.


File a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit

TorHoerman Law is proud to help our brave servicemen and women. Our firm is currently filing a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit on behalf of servicemen and women who unfortunately suffered serious ear injuries during military combat as the result of 3M’s negligence and greed.

The VA recently reported that more than 2.6 million veterans are currently receiving disability compensation for tinnitus, partial or total hearing loss.

If you are currently are or were serving in the US military and served at any point in time between 2003 to 2015, and you suffer from tinnitus, partial or total hearing, you may be eligible to participate in a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs lawsuit.

Call 1-888-508-6752 to talk with an attorney at TorHoerman Law today. You fought for us, now let us fight for you.


“Annual Benefits Report Veterans Benefits Administration Fiscal Year 2017.” Veterans Benefits Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, 2017, www.benefits.va.gov/REPORTS/abr/docs/2017_abr.pdf.

Axt, Bill. “3M Company to Pay $9.1 Million Settlement for Selling Defective Earplugs to Military.” The Hearing Shop, 14 Aug. 2018, thehearingshop.com/3m-company-pay-9-1-million-settlement-selling-defective-earplugs-military/.

Carlson, Mr. David. “False Claims Act.” LII / Legal Information Institute, Legal Information Institute, 21 Apr. 2015, www.law.cornell.edu/wex/false_claims_act.

Marshall, Josh. “Combat Veteran Files Lawsuit for Loss of Hearing Due to Defective Military Ear Plugs.” KHOU, KHOU, 22 Jan. 2019, www.khou.com/article/news/local/combat-veteran-files-lawsuit-for-loss-of-hearing-due-to-defective-military-ear-plugs/285-51892502-058e-4944-8cb3-274fd350d8e7.

Rempfer, Kyle. “Company to Pay $9 Million after Allegedly Selling Defective Combat Earplugs to US Military.” Military Times, Military Times, 26 July 2018, www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2018/07/26/company-to-pay-9-million-after-allegedly-selling-defective-combat-earplugs-to-us-military/.

“Severe Hearing Impairment Among Military Veterans --- United States, 2010.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22 July 2011, www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6028a4.htm.

Last Modified: November 6th, 2019 @ 05:44 pm