The United States military has long known that combat noises take an extreme toll on the hearing of military service personnel. To alleviate that problem, the government’s Defense Logistics Agency contracted with 3M Company to design and supply “Combat Arms” earplugs that were intended to protect the hearing of service personnel who were involved in active military operations. As a result of alleged design defects and inadequate instructions, those earplugs failed to serve their purpose, leaving thousands of service personnel with long-term hearing impairments.
The product liability lawyers at Showard Law Firm represent military service personnel and others who are suffering from noise-induced hearing loss as a result of their use of and reliance on defective earplugs. We are seeking to hold the manufacturer accountable for its alleged negligence and to recover both economic and punitive damages for our clients.
How Do Loud Noises Cause Hearing Problems?
The human ear contains delicate structures that translate mechanical sound vibrations into electrical nerve impulses. Mechanical sound pressure bends microscopic hair-like projections (the “sterocilia”) in the inner ear. This bending action opens channels that allow chemical fluids to fill pores, and the movement of those fluids creates the electrical nerve impulses that are interpreted as sounds by the brain.
Repeated loud noises damage the stereocilia in the same manner that excessive bending and deflection of a wire will cause the wire to break. The stereocilia will not regenerate once they are permanently damaged, which leads to hearing loss.
Is Hearing Loss the Only Military Ear Plug Side Effect?
The discharge from a firearm is typically in the range of 150 decibels, which is significantly greater than the sound rating for other common loud noises, such as motor vehicle traffic and sirens. 3M’s military earplugs were intended to block much of that combat sound without impairing quieter sounds, such as conversations. Service personnel routinely used defective earplugs between 2003 and 2015 in combat arenas. The use of defective earplugs exposed those personnel to the risk of experiencing one or more military earplug side effects:
- Ruptured eardrums and damage to the delicate bone structures in the middle ear, which can cause immediate and sometimes permanent hearing loss.
- Gradual hearing loss resulting in muffled or distorted sounds, with greater hearing deterioration over time.
- Persistent ringing, buzzing, or roaring sounds that are characteristic of a hearing disorder called tinnitus.
Military veteran hearing loss might initially appear to be temporary, as the immediate effects of exposure to loud noises will sometimes go away. Research shows that even when the immediate hearing impairment does goes away, a service veteran will be more likely to suffer permanent hearing loss in one or both ears over time.
How Are 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs Leading to Veteran Hearing Loss?
3M sold its Combat Arms earplugs until 2015, when it stopped making them. In 2018, 3M repaid $9.1 million to the U.S. government in order to settle allegations that its earplugs were defective and that it failed to disclose the defects. 3M did not admit fault in that matter, and the company was not deemed to be liable for the allegations that the government brought against it. Attorneys, including the lawyers at Showard Law Firm, are now filing lawsuits to recover damages on account of 3M’s alleged defective ear plugs and to recover compensation for service personnel whose hearing has been permanently harmed when those earplugs failed to block loud combat noises.
The primary claims in those lawsuits include allegations that:
- 3M improperly manipulated testing procedures and earplug fitting instructions, making the earplugs appear to be effective when they were ineffective to prevent damage from loud noises.
- 3M failed to warn users of the known defects regarding the Combat Arms earplugs.
- 3M failed to provide adequate instructions for the safe and effective use of the earplugs.
In some cases, veterans have reported that the earplugs fell out, and in other cases they indicated that the earplugs did nothing to deaden loud artillery discharges and other combat sounds. Many of those veterans are now seeking damages from 3M to compensate them for their hearing loss and other side effects.
Experiencing 3M Combat Arms Ear Plug Side Effects? Call Showard Law Firm
Please call Showard Law Firm if you served in the U.S. military and you relied on 3M’s Combat Arms earplugs while you in active service. The company stopped manufacturing these earplugs in 2015, but it never recalled any products that it had already shipped. Even if your military service occurred after 2015, you might still have used the 3M earplugs and you may be at risk for future hearing problems.
Our firm represents active and retired military service personnel throughout the United States, and we will fight to recover the largest damages award that may be available to compensate you for any current hearing loss and future hearing problems.
- nih.gov: Noise Induced Hearing Loss. https://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/noise-induced-hearing-loss
- cbsnews.com: Veterans Claim Defective 3M Earplugs Caused Hearing Loss, Ringing in Ears: “It Is Torture”. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/military-veterans-claim-defective-3m-earplugs-caused-hearing-loss/
- militarytimes.com: Hundreds of Vets are Suing Over These Defective Combat Earplugs. https://www.militarytimes.com/news/your-military/2019/02/14/hundreds-of-vets-are-suing-over-these-defective-combat-earplugs/
- justice.gov: 3M Company Agrees to Pay $9.1 Million to Resolve Allegations that it Supplied the United States with Defective Dual-Ended Combat Earplugs. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/3m-company-agrees-pay-91-million-resolve-allegations-it-supplied-united-states-defective-dual