Military Service Members Claims Against 3M Due To Defective Earplugs

If you served in the military between 2003-2015, were issued 3M's dual sided Combat Arms Earplugs, and suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus, you can qualify for a claim. These claims are not against the government and will not affect your benefits.

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What Are the 3M Combat Earplugs and How Are They Defective?

3M’s Duel-Ended Combat Earplugs were specifically designed for the US Military to provide a single set of earplugs with two hearing options pending on which end was inserted in a user’s ear.

  • Olive end: With the olive or dark end inserted into a user’s ear, the earplugs were designed to block out all sounds like a traditional earplug, giving full protection to its user.
  • Yellow end: With the yellow end inserted in a user’s ear, the earplugs were designed to block loud impulse sounds like explosions or artillery, while ensuring that the wearer is able to hear low audible sounds like verbal commands. 

Unfortunately, the dual ended earplugs failed to provide the intended protection to our military. According to the Department of Justice, these earplugs had a “dangerous” defect causing it to unnoticeably loosen in a user’s ears. Consequently, damaging sound could enter the ear canal by traveling outside the earplug. Nevertheless, 3M falsely certified its earplugs as a universal pre-molded design that complied with military noise cancelation standards. 

Between 2003 and until 2015, the US Military paid 3M millions of dollars for their defective earplugs and, unbeknownst to it, was putting its soldiers’ hearing at risk. In fact, 3M sold these earplugs to the US Military pursuant to an Indefinite Quantify Contract that made it the exclusive supplier of selective attenuation earplugs. According to an estimation cited by the Department of Justice, the US military likely purchased one pair of 3M earplugs for each deployed soldier annually involved in certain foreign engagements between 2003 and 2015.

3M Allegedly Knew Of And Concealed The Dangerous Defects Of Their Combat Earplugs

In May of 2016, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the United States against 3M under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act.  This lawsuit alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew that their combat earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and could loosen imperceptibly. More shocking, the lawsuit asserts that Aearo (and later 3M) knew of the earplug defects as early as 2000 yet concealed and falsified testing results to become an exclusive combat earplug supplier to the US Military.

In July 2018, the US Department of Justice announce that the 3M Company had agreed to pay a $9.1 million settlement to resolve claims that it had defrauded the US Government. However, none of this money would be allocated to the current military service members and veterans experiencing hearing problems due to use of the 3M Combat Earplugs.

3M Company must now be held accountable to military personnel who have yet to be compensated for their hearing disabilities caused by 3M’s defective earplugs. Substantial financial compensation may be available to military service member from 3M Company even to those receiving disability or service benefits.


The Most Common Service-Related Disabilities Among the Military is Hearing Loss and Tinnitus.

During 2003 to 2015, the most common reported disability for US veterans has been some form of hearing loss or tinnitus. In fact, the VA estimates that as many as 52% of combat soldiers return from foreign conflicts with significant hearing damage, which represents the largest ongoing medical cost of the military. Additionally, hearing related problems have lead to mental disabilities for our military service members including PTSD, depression, and anxiety.While noise-induced hearing loss and related injuries may occur immediately, it may also progress silently for many years until it becomes noticeable. Some symptoms of hearing related disabilities may include:

  • Tinnitus or Ringing in the Ears
  • Impartial hearing loss or hearing loss through one ear completely
  • Listening to Television or Radio At High Volumes
  • Trouble Understanding Speech (Especially with female and young voices)
  • Difficulty Hearing Certain Word Sounds (i.e. “s”, “sh”, “th”, “f”, “v”)
  • Often Asking People To Repeat Themselves
  • Need for a Hearing Aid



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