The earplug manufacturer that contracted with the United States Military has reached a settlement in a lawsuit alleging that the company, 3M, was aware of defects in its product that potentially led to a high rate of hearing loss and tinnitus among military veterans.
The earplugs, the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, were used by soldiers deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq from the year 2003 through 2015. The devices have since been discontinued.
Within the 12 years that the military used the earplugs, thousands of services members relied on these devices to protect their hearing. Sadly, the devices often failed these soldiers and left them with debilitating conditions including tinnitus and hearing loss.
The devices could be used to block all sounds or to allow soldiers to hear normal level noises while still protecting against loud sounds that soldiers are often exposed to in combat situations. The devices would be used to block all noise when soldiers were training or possibly in transit on loud aircraft or vehicles, but in a combat situation, hearing commands and instructions is extremely important, and so the devices were meant to allow these sounds to be heard.
The devices were too short to be effective, which led to them becoming loose and not functioning as they ought to have. According to the lawsuit filed by the government, 3M, and the earlier manufacturer, Aearo, which 3M acquired, knew that the defect existed, but continued to sell the product to the military thereby putting service members at risk.
There are now over 2.6 million former service members who are collecting disability because of either hearing loss or tinnitus. Those veterans who were impacted by the defective earplugs can collect compensation.
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