Hearing loss and hearing-related conditions like tinnitus are a big problem in military members and veterans. Combat and military training expose service members to high-decibel sounds like can cause life-changing hearing loss over time. And unfortunately, a recent lawsuit demonstrated most military members’ ears have not been properly protected in recent years.
That has left many current service members (and veterans) wondering if the earplugs they currently use meet standards, or if they’re at risk as well. Here’s what you need to know.
What Counts as “Military Standard” Earplugs?
Traditional earplugs are known for being able to block damaging noises from entering the user’s ear canal. This is ideal for most situations, but military conditions are different. Blocking out all sound can impede mandatory communication between service members, such as commands and other quieter sounds that soldiers must be able to hear.
For this reason, military-standard earplugs must have level-dependent functions. Earplugs should contain a small filter that eliminates loud, damaging noises (like gunfire and explosions) from the ears while still enabling soft sounds to come through.
Other types of equipment like headphones or helmets can provide some noise reduction, but they are harder to transport and don’t provide the same protection as earplugs.
How Do I Know if My Military-Issue Earplugs Comply?
The most important thing to know is that the defective earplugs you’ve been hearing about — the 3M Combat Arms earplugs that are now believed to be defective — are no longer in use by any branch of the armed forces.
They were used exclusively from 2003-2015 and have now been removed from use.
So, unless you are using older earplugs issued years ago or you have bought them secondhand, you should not need to worry that you’re using the actual defective earplugs that have now become the subject of so many lawsuits.
However, it’s also important to understand how they were defective — so that you know you’re current earplugs won’t turn out to have the same problem.
And the main problem with the 3M Combat Arms earplugs was that they didn’t fit properly.
How Should Military Standard Earplugs Fit?
Here is how an earplug should fit and work correctly:
- Earplugs must be able to fit snugly in your ear canal so it’s completely blocked. When the fit is correct, the earplug will form a seal with the skin of the outer ear canal
- You should be able to talk out loud and hear your voice as slightly muffled but louder
- You might also notice some vacuum pressure in the ear canal, which is normal
If unsure, it’s always best to have a specialist look at the fit and placement of the earplugs. Some earplugs can have issues that are imperceptible to the user, which is what happened with the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs and the resulting lawsuit.
What Went Wrong with the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs?
3M Company was tasked with creating dual-ended earplugs for the U.S. military between the years of 2003 and 2015. These earplugs, known as the 3M Combat arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2), were created specifically for military service members. Each earplug had two sides with different functions:
- One side worked as a traditional earplug, blocking out all sound.
- The other side provided level-dependant protection, blocking out loud noises like gunfire and explosions while still letting the user hear softer sounds like communication with fellow soldiers.
These earplugs were supposed to allow service members to protect their ears while still being able to communicate in their line of duty. But in 2016, a whistleblower brought a lawsuit against 3M through the False Claims Act, alleging the earplugs were defective.
According to the lawsuit, the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs were too short to properly fit into all soldiers’ ears. Therefore, they would gradually loosen while worn and no longer provide the protection they were created for. Between 2003 and 2015, these earplugs were sold to the U.S. military and used by its members. 3M did not disclose the defect to the government, even though they allegedly had known about it since the year 2000.
The lawsuit was settled in 2018, but thousands of service members and veterans are left with potential hearing damage from the defective 3M earplugs. The need for military-standard earplugs should not be taken lightly, as hearing loss can affect a person’s entire life and is one of the biggest insurance claims made by veterans. If you or a loved one were affected by the 3M earplugs defect, you need a good 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Lawsuit lawyer you can help you seek financial recovery.
Were You Affected By the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Defect?
Veterans who meet the following criteria might be eligible to seek recovery for damages from the 3M earplugs lawsuit:
- Served in the U.S. military at any point between 2003 and 2015
- Used the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) during that time
- Has been diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears)
At John Foy & Associates, we know the importance of protecting the rights and well-being of our military service members. We’re prepared to help you seek the financial recovery you deserve. Don’t suffer alone through the costs related to hearing damage from the defective 3M earplugs. You have a right to fight back. For a FREE consultation to talk about your situation and your options, contact us today. Call 404-400-4000, or fill out the form to the right to get started with your free consultation.