During the years 2003 and 2015, 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were standard issue for military personnel. Servicemen and women wore the earplugs during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. 3M’s earplugs were intended to protect the troops’ hearing from the loud sounds of warfare, such as explosions and gunshots.
The ear protection worked in two different ways. When worn closed, the earplugs blocked out all sounds. If worn with one side open, loud noises could not enter the ear canal, but one could hear quieter sounds, such as a spoken command or someone approaching.
The earplugs though, were defective. They became loose in the ear, allowing all loud noises into the ear canal. Soldiers were not likely to notice the small shift. However, the seal would be broken between the plug and the ear, giving the wearer a false sense of protection.
In 2016, Moldex-Metric, Inc. came onto the market with a competitive product. This company did not only offer similar earplugs, but they also filed a whistleblower lawsuit against 3M.
The lawsuit alleged that the earplugs could cause significant hearing loss and tinnitus in anyone that used them around loud noises. It also stated that 3M knew about the defect, and continued to sell their earplugs to the military. The complaint also said that Aearo, the company that initially designed the earplugs, knew about the problem in 2000, years before the military started wearing them.
In 2018, 3M settled the lawsuit with the Department of Justice for $9.1 million. Moldex-Metric, Inc. received $1,911,000 for their part in the whistleblower lawsuit.
Although 3M settled the whistleblower lawsuit with the DOJ, too many veterans that wore the earplugs are still suffering from hearing loss. These individuals can file a personal injury lawsuit against 3M for selling the earplugs, particularly when they knew they were defective.
“Everyone deserves to know the products they use are safe. And we owe the very best equipment and products to those serving our country” says Ben Whitley of Whitley Law Firm. “Hearing loss can greatly affect a person’s quality of life. Any veteran that served during that time and is experiencing hearing loss should speak to an attorney about possible compensation for their injuries.”