Fighting for Veterans Who Suffered Hearing Loss from Defective 3M Earplugs

Fighting for Veterans Who Suffered Hearing Loss from Defective 3M EarplugsIf you are a veteran who is living with hearing loss and/or tinnitus as a result of using 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs (CAEv2) during your service, Slack Davis Sanger wants to help. Our attorneys are currently reviewing these claims on behalf of veterans in Texas and across the country. Hundreds of thousands of veterans may have been affected. We are here to help you get the justice you deserve if:

  • You were enlisted in the armed services between 2003-2015.
  • You were issued 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs (CAEv2), or were made to purchase them on your own.
  • You wore the defective earplugs while you were serving.
  • Suffered partial or total hearing loss in one or both ears, suffer from tinnitus, and/or developed an auditory processing disorder

A federal judge recently award two Army veterans $110 million in their claim against 3M. If you believe you have a claim, Partner John Davis and his team are ready to help you explore your best options.

What is wrong with 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs?

3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs have a design flaw that actually amplifies sound. This design flaw caused harm to thousands of veterans.

3M’s earplugs are “selective attenuated” earplugs. This means they provided different levels of protection, depending on which side you used. To prevent confusion, the earplugs were color coded:

  • Yellow was used for the “open” position, meaning it would reduce some noise, but still allow a soldier to hear commands and potential enemy combatants.
  • Green was used for the “closed” position, meaning it would block all noise the way any earplug would.

The first problem is that the earplugs didn’t fit right; they would loosen in the user’s ears, exposing him or her to higher, damaging decibel levels of sound. The second problem is that 3M knew about the defect – and never said a word. The third problem is that they made a deal with the U.S. government for these defective earplugs, so thousands of soldiers were put at risk.

How 3M covered up their defective earplugs

The heart of the coverup has to do with the Noise Reduction Rating, or NRR. In order to understand an NRR, you have to understand how sound works.

The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) say that any sound over 120 decibels (20dB) is dangerous. A normal conversation is about 60dB. Firecrackers are about 145dB; so, too, are gunshots. You can be exposed to higher decibel levels for short periods of time – per the CDC, a washing machine runs at 70dBs and the typical response by most people is “annoyance” – but long-term exposure can do significant damage.

3M claimed that their earplugs had an NRR of 22dB (green) and 0dB (yellow). Consumer Notice explains it this way:

To calculate the amount of decibel reduction provided by an earplug, take the NRR, subtract seven and divide by two. Subtract that number from the total decibel number to determine your new level of noise exposure.

Say a soldier wearing an earplug with an NRR of 22 is exposed to gunfire with a standard decibel rating of 140 decibels. To determine the level of hearing protection, you would use the following equation:

22 – 7 = 15
15 ÷ 2 = 7.5
140 – 7.5 = 132.5

This means if a solider was exposed to 140 decibels from firing a weapon while wearing an earplug with an NRR of 22, the new noise exposure would be 132.5 decibels.

As you can see, it’s not a massive difference, but it’s enough to help. However, because the earplugs loosen in the ear, the tests showed that the real NRR was 10.9 (green) and -2 (yellow). That means the yellow side actually amplified sound, and the green side was only half as effective as it should have been at reducing noise levels.

So not only did 3M lie – it lied to the federal government about the NRR, and then continued to sell them the defective earplugs.

The whistleblower claim against 3M

Another company called Moldex-Metric, which also makes earplugs, wanted that government contract. It was attempting to create an earplug that could work for soldiers when its employees discovered the defect in the 3M earplugs. Moldex-Metric filed a qui tam action – a type of whistleblower claim allowed under the False Claims Act, which allows private individuals to assist the government when they discover fraud – asserting that 3M was lying about the NRR. The federal Department of Justice followed up, and ended up settling with 3M for $9.1 million.

This whistleblower complaint opened the doors for veterans in Texas and across the country to file civil lawsuits against 3M for their hearing loss.

How veterans can seek justice for their hearing loss from 3M earplugs

Servicemen and women in every branch of the military – the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force – used these earplugs. Civilian contractors and Border Patrol agents may also have been issued (or ordered to purchase) these earplugs between 2003 and 2015. If you were in the service or a civilian contractor, and served at home or overseas during that time, the chances are good you used 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ earplugs.

If you used these earplugs and have suffered partial or total hearing loss in one or both ears, are now living with tinnitus, or have developed an auditory processing order, you could be eligible to file a claim or join an existing lawsuit.

This is where Slack Davis Sanger can help you. We take all cases on contingency, so it costs you nothing to work with us on your claim. We can help you seek damages related to:

At Slack Davis Sanger, we want to help veterans get the relief they need. You served your country well; let us help you when you need it most. To speak with an experienced Texas injury lawyer about a potential lawsuit against 3M, please call 800-455-8686 or fill out our contact form. We maintain offices in Austin, Dallas, and Fort Worth for your convenience, and represent clients throughout the country.