For about 12 years, the military used 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs as protection for their soldier’s ears. Thousands of the soldiers who served in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015 used the earplugs, which have now been shown to be defective.
The earplugs have two functions, on which can block all noise and is referred to as Closed/Constant Protection Mode, and another referred to as Open/Weapons Fire Mode. In Closed mode, the earplugs were meant to block all sound. If the user flipped the device around, it would be in Weapons mode and the user would still be able to hear some sounds, such as commands, but would ideally be protected from loud and potentially damaging sounds such as explosions and gunfire.
The government now alleges that the earplugs did not serve their intended purpose in either mode because of a design flaw that the company was aware of, but never reported to the government. The earplugs allegedly can come loose in a soldier’s ear and therefore fail to protect against loud noises.
3M entered a settlement agreement in July 2018 that requires the company to pay out $9.1 million.
Both hearing loss and tinnitus are extremely common among former service members, and it now appears that the cause of many of those conditions could be the defective earplugs. When a person is exposed to dangerously high sound levels, they can experience permanent damage to their ears.
Former service members who used the defective earplugs and who are now suffering hearing loss could be eligible to be compensated for the harm caused by the ineffective product.
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