3M Earplug Lawsuit

Mass Tort / MDL

Mass Torts


Justice For Everyone

Investigation Into Military Hearing Loss, Tinnitus Caused By Defective Earplugs

Active duty military or veterans between 2002 and 2015 were issued military ear plugs.

If you were one, did you experience tinnitus or hearing loss despite this “hearing protection”?

The hearing protection that was issued was defective and may have caused your hearing problems. You may be entitled to compensation.

In the 13 years between 2002 and 2015, members of the military were issued defective ear plugs – 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) found that these earplugs were defective. They were too short to properly fit in the ear. Their use could lead to hearing loss, tinnitus, and hearing impairment.

3M, the Minnesota-based manufacturer of these earplugs, set aside $9.1 million to resolve these allegations. While the company admitted no wrongdoing, it did knowingly sell defective earplugs to the military. The earplugs, Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, were standard issue for combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan between 2002 and 2015.

3M Combat Arms Earplugs Settlement: A Summary

Soldier pointing assault rifle

In July of 2018, the Department of Justice reached a settlement with 3M with regard to the sale of defective earplugs to the military. The allegations were that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective products.

The DOJ pursued 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., alleging that the companies knew that the Dual-Ended Arms Earplugs Version 2 were too short to properly insert into the user’s ear canal properly. This caused the earplug to come loose without the user’s knowledge, resulting in hearing loss. 

During the 1990’s, Aearo Technologies manufactured the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. The company was aware as early as 2000, according to DOJ documents that the earplugs were defective. In spite of this, the firm became the exclusive provider of earplugs to the military, a contract that continued after 3M’s acquisition of the Aearo in 2008.

The allegation in the DOJ documents state that 3M didn’t disclose the failure of these earplugs throughout the time of the contract.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct. Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.” – Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division

Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus is Devastating and Avoidable

Tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ears, and hearing loss are preventable conditions. In combat, they are caused by machinery, engines, and weapons fire and making sounds at very high decibel levels. Military members are consistently exposed to this type of sound, the sounds that 3M’s earplugs were supposed to protect service members from.

More than an inconvenience, tinnitus and hearing loss can have devastating effects on a veteran’s life. The inability to hear well due to constant buzzing or hissing in the ears can cause: lack of concentration/focus, difficulty hearing when others speak, inability to hear sounds around oneself. All of this can lead to lack of sleep, depression, social isolation, and can contribute to suicide.

US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) documents show that over 2.7 million veterans receive disability benefits for permanent hearing loss or tinnitus.

In reality, this number may be much higher. The process for benefits authorization via the VA is arduous and many veterans may have hearing damage but not be receiving any assistant.

Some facts about veterans’ hearing loss:

  • Members who served after September 2001 are 4x more likely to have hearing loss.*
  • Veterans are 30% more likely to have hearing loss than non-veterans. *
  • 933,000 veterans received benefits for hearing and 1.3 million received benefits for tinnitus, in 2014. **

You Served. You Deserve to be Compensated for Damages Done to You.

If you’re a veteran who served between 2002 and 2015, or you have a loved one that did, and have suffered hearing loss or tinnitus, you may receive significant compensation.