3M acquired Aearo Technologies in 2008, effectively becoming a major player in the military earplug market. Little did the company know that years later, it would be facing a massive lawsuit involving allegedly defective earplugs.
More than 200,000 people have claimed that the Combat Arms earplugs used by U.S. armed forces were knowingly defective, resulting in hearing loss and chronic tinnitus. 3M has denied those claims, stating that the earplugs were neither defective nor negligently designed and could not be linked to soldiers’ injuries.
A groundbreaking design
Introduced more than 20 years ago, Combat Arms earplugs were groundbreaking. The earplugs allowed soldiers to hear commands. At the same time, they blocked out the steady noise of military equipment and weapons fire. The problems are thought to have begun when the military asked Aearo Technologies to shorten the length of the plugs to fit into a standard-issue case. When Aearo tested the new design, they allegedly noticed potential issues. They decided to conceal this information from the military.
A key 3M defense was shot down
3M claims it’s acting as a government contractor. As such, they should be immune from lawsuits related to the defective earplugs. A federal judge has dismissed this defense, paving the way for civil lawsuits to proceed.
Auditory damage can affect all military members
Hearing issues are a common occupational hazard for military members. They represent a significant portion of VA disability claims. It’s not just hearing loss that can be a problem. Tinnitus, a ringing in the years, can lead to sleep problems, anxiety, and depression. Soldiers who have seen active combat are not the only ones to suffer from hearing damage. Anyone who has been on or around military vehicles or who has used military firearms could develop issues. You should discuss your case with a skilled legal professional if you’ve experienced hearing loss during or after your military service.