Military Hearing Loss: Who’s Affected?
- Did you serve in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015?
- Do you suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus?
If you are a veteran with hearing loss or tinnitus, you may have been issued defective ear plugs during your military service that caused your hearing problems, making you eligible to seek compensation for your injuries.
Between 2003 and 2015, thousands of U.S. service members received defective military ear plugs manufactured by 3M called Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs.
An investigation by the Justice Department found that the 3M ear plugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears, putting users at risk for permanent hearing loss, impairment and tinnitus.
In July 2018, Minnesota-based 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations it knowingly sold defective military ear plugs to the government, though the company has admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement.
The now-discontinued Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were standard-issued equipment for Afghanistan and Iraq soldiers serving between 2003 and 2015.
What is the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Settlement?
The Department of Justice announced in July 2018 that it had reached a $9.1 million settlement resolving allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing defective 3M ear plugs to be sold to the U.S. military.
Specifically, the DoJ alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc, knew the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 were too short to be properly inserted into users’ ears, allowing them to become loosened without the user knowing, therefore failing to perform proper noise cancellation and failing to provide effective hearing protection.
Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies, beginning in the 1990s. According to the DoJ, the manufacturer became aware of design flaws in the product as early as 2000. Nonetheless, Aearo was awarded an exclusive contract to supply the military with the earplugs in question; this contract eventually passed to 3M when it took over Aearo in 2008.
The DoJ alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military when the contract was finalized.
“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler of the Department’s Civil Division. “Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”
Read more: Which Combat Arms Earplugs Are Defective?
What is Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus?
Tinnitus and hearing loss from military service is usually caused by noise exposure during combat and training. Military earplugs are supposed to help protect military members from dangerous levels of sound from gunfire, aircraft, tanks, roadside bombs, heavy equipment, and more.
It is more than just a nuisance—it can have a devastating long-term impact. Those who suffer from tinnitus may be unable to concentrate or sleep due to constant ringing, hissing or buzzing sounds in their ears.
Hearing loss can make it difficult to interact with people and maintain relationships, leading to social isolation and depression.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), more than 2.7 million veterans currently receive military disability benefits for hearing loss or tinnitus, a ringing in the ears.
But the actual number may be higher. The number quoted above only accounts for veterans who have been documented by the VA. There are likely many other veterans with military hearing loss that the VA hasn’t documented.
Statistics show that:
- Veterans are 30 percent more likely than non-veterans
- to have severe hearing impairment (CDC).
- Veterans who served after September 2001 are four times more likely to have military hearing loss (CDC).
- As of the close of fiscal year 2014, more than 933,000 Veterans were receiving disability compensation for hearing loss, and nearly 1.3 million received compensation for tinnitus (VA).
Have 3M Earplug Lawsuits Been Filed?
Hundreds of 3M earplug lawsuits have already been filed by veterans who claim they developed hearing loss or tinnitus even though they wore the earplugs made by 3M.
In April 2019, a multidistrict litigation was created to consolidate 635 military earplug lawsuits filed across 30 federal courts around the country.
Join a Free 3M Earplug Lawsuit Investigation
If you or a loved one suffered partial or total hearing loss and/or tinnitus after being issued 3M Combat Arms Earplugs between 2003 and 2015 in the U.S. military, you may be entitled to compensation.
Fill out the form on this page now to see if you qualify!
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