Military Hearing Loss May Be Caused by Earplug Problems

Austin Kirk

By Austin Kirk
Posted January 24, 2019


Hearing loss and tinnitus are two of the most frequent problems reported by veterans following military service. However, it now appears that design problems with combat earplugs issued to soldiers between 2003 and 2015 may be to blame in many of these cases.

Military Earplug Problmes

Evidence has recently been discovered that 3M Company knew for years about issues with it’s Combat Arms Earplugs, but never disclosed the problems. As a result, soldiers were issued earplugs that failed to provide the promised level of hearing protection.

The lawyers at Saiontz & Kirk, P.A. are now pursuing potential military hearing loss lawsuits for veterans nationwide. To determine whether you or a loved one may be entitled to financial compensation, request a free consultation and claim evaluation.

Problems with 3M Military Earplugs

Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were originally developed by Aearo Technologies, Inc., which was subsequently acquired by 3M Company. The dual-ended earplugs were designed with two sides. One side worked like a traditional earplug, while the other side is supposed to block loud noises, like explosions and jet engines, while allowing quiet noises, like an officer’s commands or an approaching vehicle. However, many soldiers are just now learning that these earplugs were defective.

In May 2016, a whistleblower lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, bringing the earplug problems to the attention of the U.S. government. The complaint was filed by a manufacturer of competing battlefield earplugs, alleging that 3M Company was failing to disclose that the earplugs were defective and may loosen in the ear, failing to provide adequate protection. In addition, the lawsuit informed the U.S. government that Aearo’s testing methods failed to meet required military standards.

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Rather than conducting testing by an independent agency, Aearo provided Noise Reduction Ratings (NRR) that were based on improperly skewed and methodologically unsound testing methods, further defrauding the U.S. government. The manufacturer failed to test the earplugs under conditions consistent with the fitting instructions that were provided to military users.

In July 2018, 3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million as part of a settlement with the Department of Justice, which resolved claims that it defrauded the U.S. government. However, the company still faces much greater liability exposure from individual injury and hearing loss claims brought by former service members.

Military Earplugs Lawyers

Since information about the Justice Department settlement was announced, many veterans are just now learning that military hearing loss may be caused by earplug problems, and that they may be entitled to substantial compensation from the manufacturer.

According to a Veterans Affairs benefits report from 2017, there were at least 1.78 million vets receiving disability for tinnitus, and 1.15 million receiving benefits for hearing loss. This is one of the top medical problems faced by U.S. military veterans, and it remains unclear how many of these hearing problems may have been avoided if defective 3M earplugs had not been fraudulently sold to the government.

Through a product liability lawsuit against 3M Company over the earplug problems, additional benefits may be available. Our lawyers investigate and handle all claims under a contingency fee agreement, which means that there are never any out-of-pocket costs to hire an attorney, and we only receive fees or expenses if a settlement or recovery is obtained for your military hearing loss problems.

4 Comments • Add Your Comments

  • John says:

    Stationed in US Navy Kingsville Texas. VT 23 as a plane captain. A hundred sorties flown a day. Went down intake of F9 jet while turning couldn’t wear ear protection in case it would be sucked off 1968 -1969

    Posted on February 2, 2019 at 7:23 pm

  • Joshua says:

    The first time I was issued these earplugs and put them in I told myself these earplugs don’t fit and they don’t keep any of the noise out of your ears. Those earplugs were horrible but our command ordered us to carry them with us at all times. I used them in Iraq 2008-2009 and Afghanistan 2010-2011.

    Posted on April 15, 2019 at 10:06 pm

  • stephen says:

    does this suit apply to civilian contractors? USAID, INL etc. I spent 8 years in Afghanistan and 2 in Iraq as a contractor, rode on Blackwater birds regularly, and used these ear plugs. have had ringing in my ears for several years since.

    Posted on May 30, 2019 at 1:17 pm

  • stephen says:

    does this suit apply to civilian contractors? USAID, INL etc. I spent 8 years in Afghanistan and 2 in Iraq as a contractor, rode on Blackwater birds regularly, and used these ear plugs. have had ringing in my ears for several years since.

    Posted on May 30, 2019 at 7:56 pm

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