By Leah M. McMorris, Esq.

Published April 1, 2019

Service members in the U.S. military may have been exposed to excessive noise while using 3M Combat Earplugs. From 2003 until 2015, 3M Company had the exclusive U.S. military contract to supply millions of pairs of Combat Arms Earplugs to U.S. service members. Soldiers thought the earplugs were giving them protection against excessive noise. Instead, unknown to them but known to 3M, the earplugs were defective. Combat veterans in Iraq and Afghanistan were especially affected by the noises of explosions and weapons which were not reduced by the 3M earplugs. In 2018, the Department of Justice reached a $9.1 million dollar settlement of the government’s claims against 3M. Individual U.S. military service members are entitled to bring claims against 3M for any damage they suffered as a result of using the defective earplugs.

3M Combat Earplugs

3M’s predecessor, Aero Technologies, was the original manufacturer of 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. They were called dual-purpose because they were supposed to completely block noise if you used the closed end, and allow service members to communicate when you used the end with a hole in it. One end was yellow and the other was a dark color between olive green and black. 3M won the exclusive contract to sell these earplugs to the U. S. government from 2003 until 2015, when they were discontinued.

A Rival Manufacturer Blew the Whistle on the Defective 3M Combat Earplugs

A rival earplug manufacturer filed a False Claims Act suit against 3M in 2016. The whistleblower alleged that Aero’s testing showed that the earplugs only reduced noise by less than half of the military rating required. The government intervened in the whistleblower’s lawsuit, but the government claimed the earplugs were defective on a slightly different basis. The government alleged that the earplugs were too short to be properly inserted into a soldier’s ears. The government lawsuit said 3M was aware that the earplugs were too short, which meant that over time the earplugs very slightly and gradually loosened, thereby putting servicemembers at risk of suffering hearing losses.

3M Settled the Whistleblower Lawsuit

The U.S. government settled the lawsuit against 3M for $9.1 million dollars. The whistleblowing company that started the lawsuit against 3M was awarded $1.9 million dollars. 3M still denies that the earplugs were defective.

Injuries Connected to 3M Combat Arms Earplugs

Any member of the military who was exposed to excessive noise may as a consequence suffer from loss of hearing or ringing in the ears. This is true of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and of reservists who participated in weapons training stateside. Members of the Marine and Air Force may have suffered injury while performing their duties. The most common service-related disabilities reported by the VA in 2017 were tinnitus and hearing loss.

What Can You Do?

Current and former military servicemembers who served at any time from 2003 to 2015 may be entitled to compensation from 3M for related hearing loss or tinnitus. Please submit the contact form on this page to discuss your potential legal options.  You can call Leah McMorris at 888-491-9726 for a free, no-obligation consultation with a 3M Combat Earplug attorneys. Or tell us your story here to discuss your legal options with an experienced products liability attorney.