3M Earplugs  – Olinde Law Firm

Veterans are filing claims for injuries caused by 3M earplugs in the biggest federal mass tort lawsuit in history. The plaintiffs report that not only did 3M know about design flaws and poor test results but hid them and failed to provide adequate instructions on how to use them as the earplugs continued to be sold. This led to more than 230,000 lawsuits being filed nationwide. Three cases have made their way to court. The first jury awarded $7.1 million to three plaintiffs in April 2021. The second resulted in a win for 3M, however the fourth, which concluded on Friday, June 18, 2021, awarded $1.7 million to Lloyd Baker, who developed tinnitus after using the 3M earplugs.

The Origins of 3M Earplugs

The earplugs were first designed by Aearo Technologies. The earplugs were tested in 2002 and sales to the military began in 2003. The military handed them out to soldiers as standard issue. 3M took over Aearo Technologies in 2008 and continued to sell them until 2015.  Although Aearo Technologies knew about the defect, it was not disclosed to the military. 

3M Earplug Design

The initial version of the earplugs was not dual-sided. The follow-up called the Version 2 Combat Arms Earplugs were made so either end could be inserted into the ear. When the yellow end is inserted into the ear, a soldier should be able to hear normal noises. However, according to the military, if the soldier chose the darker end, the ears would be protected from the sound emitted by an explosion or gunfire. Normal sounds, in the latter case, should be blocked.

Aearo certified that the earplugs had a noise reduction ranking of 22 decibels. However, when the earplugs were tested later on, it was found that the noise reduction ranking was 10.9 decibels.

What Was the Design Defect in 3M Earplugs?

The basic design defect was that noise could seep into the ear after placement in the ear canal since it was too short to fit properly. Because of this, the earplug became loose and no longer kept the noise from entering. In order to maintain the proper fit, the flange must be folded back. Since instructions to do this were not provided, the earplug failed to work. 

Military Conflicts

Major military conflicts where soldiers used the 3M earplugs are listed below:

  • Civil War in Yemen (2015 onward)
  • Afghanistan War
  • North-West Pakistan conflicts
  • Iraq War
  • Operation Ocean Shield
  • War in Somalia
  • Iraq interventions ( 2014 to 2017)
  • Libya interventions (2011), (2015)
  • Syrian interventions (2014 to current)

Hearing Problems Associated With 3M Earplugs

Tinnitus and hearing loss are directly related to the use of the 3M earplugs. Hearing loss affects all parts of life from social encounters to the workplace. Tinnitus, commonly called ringing in the ears, affects many military veterans. According to the Veteran’s Administration, 1.6 million vets seek medical care because of tinnitus. 

The noise is converted into electrical impulses that allow the brain to recognize the sound for someone with adequate hearing. The hair cells in the ear are an integral part of the ability to hear. Noise-induced hearing loss damages the cilia or hair cells permanently. 

Tinnitus is often described as a high or low-pitched sound or buzzing in the ear. Loud noise causes tinnitus, and the louder the noise, the higher risk that tinnitus will be permanent. Ringing in the ears can lower the individual’s quality of life and be the cause of anxiety and depression. It is often a cause of insomnia.

False Claims Act

A California Company, Moldex-Metric, filed a lawsuit against both Aearo Technologies and 3M under the False Claims Act. This allows for charges to be brought against the companies that essentially defrauded the government. The lawsuit said that both companies knew about the defect but told no one. 

The government said that harm against them included the expenses associated with soldiers injured by the earplugs. 3M settled for $1.9 million in 2018. Soldiers who served from 2003 to 2015 and used 3M earplugs have a right to file a product liability lawsuit to obtain compensation. 

Olinde Law Firm

The Olinde Law Firm is experienced in the harm caused by the 3M earplugs. If you suffered hearing loss or tinnitus, call us anytime to set up a free case review at (800) 587-1889. We will help you obtain the compensation you deserve. You can also reach us online if that is more convenient for you. 

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