The 3M Combat Arms double-ended earplugs were purchased by the U.S. military to solve a serious problem: Service-members getting hearing loss or damage. Conditions like tinnitus and complete or partial hearing loss in or both ears can be common in veterans.
As of 2017, more than 2.7 million veterans were receiving disability benefits for some kind of hearing loss or damage, and more than 20% of all vets who served between 2003 and 2015 are receiving disability benefits for hearing loss or damage.
The 3M earplugs were designed and marketed to the U.S. Department of Defense as a solution to this problem. The earplugs would securely fit inside the ears of service-members and prevent repeated loud noise from penetrating the ear canals and causing hearing damage.
The only problem is that they didn’t work. The 3M earplugs simply didn’t securely seal inside the ear canal. This led service members operating in noisy environments to suffer serious and often permanent hearing loss or damage.
There is serious evidence suggesting that the manufacturers knew about the failures long before they became public. 3M has already paid a $9.1 million settlement to the Justice Department but they did not admit any liability.
The government’s lawsuit alleged that 3M employees knew about defects in the earplugs that prevented it from forming a tight seal as early as 2000, while the company was still selling them to the military as late as 2015.
3M should be held accountable because for knowingly selling a defective earplugs to the military. If you’re a veteran who suffered hearing loss or damage that can be attributed to 3M’s earplugs, you may be eligible for compensation, too.