3M’s Defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Put US Troops at Risk

3M’s Defective Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Put US Troops at Risk

As the father of a United States Marine and a plaintiff’s personal injury attorney I get particularly worked up, and offended, when I hear stories about government contractors making money at the expense of our troops, particularly when it involves defective equipment our troops rely upon for their safety. 3M Company (hereinafter “3M”) sold Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2), which were standard issue for several branches of the armed services during foreign conflicts between 2003 to 2015. The two-sided earplugs were intended to perform two functions: when used in the closed or blocked (Olive End In) – they block out sound like traditional earplugs. When used in the open or unblocked (Yellow End In) they should block or significantly reduce loud impulse sounds such as gunfire and explosions, while still allowing the wearer to communicate with other soldiers.

The earplugs were initially manufactured by Aearo Technologies which was acquired by 3M in 2008. Since 2000 Aearo Technologies knew that test results demonstrated that the noise reduction rating for the earplugs was 0, meaning the combat earplugs had no noise reduction benefits. Despite the earplugs failing safety test after safety test, 3M moved forward with selling the defective product to the US Government. 3M and Aearo Technologies manipulated the test results to meet the US Government’s required product standards.  

3M was aware that the earplugs were not long enough to be properly inserted into a soldiers’ ear canal. Due to the incorrect length, the earplugs would become loose and ultimately become completely useless to the user. Due to these defective earplugs, there has been a noticeable increase in tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) and hearing loss, among our troops and veterans.

3M recently settled a False Claims Act claim* with the US Government, for $9.1 million dollars**, involving the sale of defectively designed combat earplugs. While the above settlement resolved the fraud claim brought by the government, that settlement does not provide compensation for those members of the military who suffered personal injury as a result of using the earplugs. Those suffering from hearing problems such a tinnitus and/or a hearing loss, as a result of the defective earplugs while in combat or in training, may be eligible for compensation separate and apart from the government’s settlement.

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Today's blog: A commonly used earplug, standardly issued to several branches of the armed forces, by the 3M brand is now being questioned in court after reports came to light that the company knowingly manipulated test results to ensure they met the U.S. government's required product standards. Doug Olcott shares the affect this has on our troops and veterans dating back to 2003 when the earplugs were issued.