3M Earplug Lawsuit | Military Hearing Loss Attorney
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A whistleblower lawsuit brought by the federal government against Minnesota-based 3M alleged that the company knowingly supplied defective Combat Arms Earplugs to the U.S. military. The company is accused of violating the “False Claims Act” by selling the defective products, falsifying test results and not disclosing the design defect. The company’s negligent actions exposed thousands of U.S. servicemembers to military hearing loss over 12 years. Veterans with hearing problems who served in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015 may be able to file a 3M earplug lawsuit. If you are a veteran or know a veteran with a hearing problem, contact The Carlson Law Firm. We have a qualified 3M Earplug lawsuit attorney ready to help you file your claim.
The Carlson Law Firm stands with the men and women who wear a uniform and their families alike. Our attorneys are ready to begin investigating your case. We will help you understand your rights and determine what your next steps should be. We will fight tirelessly on your behalf to get you the compensation you deserve.
For more than 40 years, our firm has stood with military service men and woman through some of the toughest moments in their lives. As a veteran owned and operated firm, we have several JAG attorneys on our staff. Further, we are located next to one of the largest military bases in the world. Our qualified 3M earplug lawsuit attorneys have extensive experience in pursuing negligence claims on behalf of military members.
Overview: Why did the U.S. Government Sue 3M Over Earplugs?
Between 2003 and 2015, 3M supplied the U.S. military with defective earplugs. An investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice found that the Dual-Ended Combat Earplugs supplied by 3M were too short for proper insertion into the ears. This design defect put users at risk of permanent hearing loss, impairment and tinnitus.
Despite knowing about the defects as early as 2000, 3M—the exclusive manufacturer of earplugs for deployed soldiers at the time—failed to disclose product defects to the proper officials. The defects in question led to a decrease in effectiveness of the earplugs supplied to the U.S. military.
What does the 3M earplug lawsuit allege?
The settlement between the U.S. government alleges that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies Inc., were aware that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. As a result of the design flaw, the earplugs can gradually loosen in such a subtle way that the wearers may not notice. When this occurs, the earplugs do not perform the desired noise cancellation.
In addition, the lawsuit alleges that 3M did not disclose this design defect to military officials.
How did the information about defective 3M earplugs come to light?
In 2016, competing ear plug manufacturer Moldex Metric Inc. filed a Whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. The complaint alleges that both 3M and Aero Technologies both knew about the defects in the earplugs. Also, the suit alleges that the companies set up fraudulent testing to comply with U.S. military standards.
What are Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs?
Dual-ended combat arms earplugs are specially designed earplugs that adjust sounds based on volume. For example, a properly functioning device would allow low-volume sounds pass with limited interruption. However, the device restricts sounds with high-level impulsive noises. The more intense the impulse, the more the device limits the noise.
Further, the specific earplugs at the center of the 3M lawsuit were yellow and black in design with the yellow side of the earplug being inserted into the ear.
Veterans with hearing problems who served in any branch of the military between 2003 and 2015 may be able to file a 3M earplug lawsuit. If you are a veteran or know a veteran with a hearing problem, contact us today. We have a qualified attorney ready to help you file your claim.
What is Noise and How Does it Negatively Affect Hearing?
By definition, sound is when a vibrating source sends waves through the air and into a person’s ear. Every sound has two aspects: pitch (sound frequency) and loudness (intensity of the sound, measured in decibels). Noise, on the other hand, is sound that is unwanted or unpleasant. Several frequencies make up noise, and it can vary in loudness.
Exposure to noise will first affect the ability to hear high-pitched sounds. This means that a person can still hear some sounds, but other sounds may be unclear or distorted. Noise damages hearing by its volume and/or how long a person is exposed to it. This damage can lead to both temporary or permanent hearing loss as well as tinnitus.
Temporary hearing loss
First, noise may tire out the inner ear leading to temporary hearing loss. In the cases of temporary hearing loss, the hearing may be restored when time is spent away from the noise.
Permanent hearing loss
With continuous exposure to noise, the ear will lose its ability to repair itself and such will result in permanent hearing loss.
These conditions can be the result of damage to different parts of the ear including, the inner ear and nerves.
Cell and membrane damage
Loud noise, in particular, is extremely harmful to the cochlea, or inner ear. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, loud noises damage the cells and membranes in the inner ear. Hearing loss can progress over time as long as a person is exposed to noise. However, one-time exposure to extreme noise can lead to hearing loss.
Hair cell damage
On average, humans are born with about 16,000 hair cells inside their inner ear. These tiny cells allow your brain to detect sounds. Approximately 30 percent to 50 percent of cochlea before your hearing changes. Unfortunately, this means that by the time you notice your hearing loss, many of the cells have been destroyed. The cells are irreparable.
These cells can be damaged temporarily, such as after a one-time loud concert. Or, the damage can be permanent if repeated exposure destroys many of the hair cells.
Noise can damage the auditory nerve that carries information about sounds to your brain. This damage is often difficult to detect and may not show up on hearing tests. However, ‘hidden hearing loss’ will make it difficult to hear others speaking to you in noisy environments.
Noise in the Military
Hearing is vital to the work of a soldier. It is essential for communication between other soldiers in addition to staying alert in combat zones.
But, potentially damaging noises have long existed for military personnel. Service members are exposed continuously to high-intensity sounds through training, standard military operants and combat zones. In fact, many World War II veterans suffered hearing loss and deafness as a result of their service. Because of the hearing issues that many veterans endure, the military has long prioritized reducing hearing damage.
What are the Health Risks of Using Defective Earplugs?
At some point in their careers, those serving in the military will be exposed to high-intensity noise levels. This is especially true for those who deploy to war zones. For this reason, combat soldiers need in-ear hearing protection. Long-term exposure to high volume sounds such as engines, RPGs and other weapons can leave veterans with:
- Varying levels of permanent military hearing loss
- Permanent hearing damage
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
Among military veterans, the most common service-connected disabilities are hearing impairments including military hearing loss and tinnitus. In fact, studies show that military veterans are four times more likely than nonveterans to have a severe hearing impairment. Naturally, the military has increased emphasis on both improving military hearing conservation programs and decreasing hearing loss.
Between 2003-2015, there were more than 1.56 million active infantrymen deployed to U.S. war zones. This accounts for approximately 20 percent of the American military. Veteran affairs reports show that hearing loss and tinnitus rose dramatically between 2003-2015, peaking in 2012.
If you served in the military between 2003-2015 and suffered military hearing loss or tinnitus after using defective 3M earplugs, you may be entitled to compensation. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to speak with a qualified 3M earplug lawsuit attorney.
Military Noise Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss is a sensorineural hearing deficit that begins at the higher frequencies (3,000 to 6,000 Hz) and develops gradually as a result of repeated exposure to excessive sound levels. Service members may encounter these noise sources through training, standard military operations, and combat. Exposure to combat-related noise may be unpredictable in onset and duration. Service members may also be exposed to hazardous noise through activities that are not unique to the military environment, including various engineering, industrial, construction, or maintenance tasks.
Military noise induced hearing loss is a permanent disability, although the impairment sometimes can be rehabilitated with hearing aids. Since 1978, the Department of Defense (DoD) policy has required each of the armed services to have military hearing conservation programs (HCPs) in place, incorporating noise hazard identification, safety signs and labels, noise mitigation, education and training, audiometric surveillance, and program evaluation. However, a 2005 Institute of Medicine report identified certain shortcomings in military hearing conservation programs (HCPs). Military noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, occurs when a person experiences a reduction in their ability to hear. The condition may make it difficult to understand speech and other sounds. Hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear, nerves coming from the ear or the part of the brain that controls hearing.
The severity of military hearing loss varies from person to person. Also, how it is treated or if it even treatable largely depends on the type of hearing loss. There are three basic types of hearing loss:
Conductive hearing loss occurs when hearing cannot get through the outer and middle ear. Those with this type of hearing loss may make it hard to hear soft sounds and muffle louder sounds. Medical conditions typically lead to conductive hearing loss and can be reversed through medication or surgery.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. This type of hearing loss typically caused by external injuries, aging, loud noises or explosions. Medicine or surgery cannot repair sensorineural hearing loss.
Mixed hearing loss is when conductive and sensorineural hearing loss occurs at the same time. Mixed hearing loss is the result of damage in outer or middle and inner ear or nerve pathway to the brain.
If you are a current or former military service member who received a defective 3M earplug, you may be able to seek compensation through a 3m earplug lawsuit for any hearing loss your experienced.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is the perception of noise or ringing in the ears. The condition is relatively common that affects one in five people. Tinnitus is not, itself, a condition—it is a symptom of an underlying condition related to hearing loss, ear injuries or circulatory system disorders. Further, the phantom noises in your ears can present as:
The noises may vary from a low roar to a high squeal. A person may hear these phantom sounds in one or both ears. In serious conditions, the sound can be so loud that it can interfere with your ability to concentrate or hear actual sound. The condition may be present all the time, or it can come and go.
Tinnitus comes in two forms:
Subjective tinnitus is the most common type and is a sound that only you can hear. It can result from inner, outer and middle ear problems.
Objective tinnitus, on the other hand, is tinnitus that your doctor can hear when he or she does an examination. A blood vessel problem, middle ear bone condition or muscle contractions can cause this rare problem.
The Effects of Military Hearing Loss and Tinnitus
Damage to your hearing can carry lifelong effects. Military hearing loss can lead to a decrease in your quality of life and in some cases limit job opportunities because of impaired communication. In addition, either of these conditions can prematurely end a military career.
3M knew of its defective products but failed to disclose or correct the problem which led to serious damage to thousands of military servicemembers’ hearing. If you were diagnosed with military hearing loss or tinnitus, a qualified 3M earplug lawsuit attorney can help you receive just compensation for the following:
- Pain and suffering
- Medical bills
- Past and future lost wages
- Permanent or temporary disability
- Punitive damages
Any time another person’s negligence causes you harm, you may file a lawsuit against the negligent party. The lawsuit can help you Contact The Carlson Law Firm to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation with a member of our legal team.
Which Service Members have a Claim Against 3M?
3M was the exclusive manufacturers of earplugs for the U.S. military for those were deployed to a war zone. Vets who served in Iraq, Afghanistan or any other war zone would most likely have used these earplugs.
Millions of service members were issued the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs. As a result, several service members were exposed to damaging sound levels. Those who received defective and dangerous earplugs while fighting between 2003-2015 in the following wars:
- War of Afghanistan
- Iraq War
- War in North-West Pakistan
- War in Somalia
- American-led intervention in Libya
- Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
- American-led interventions in Iraq (2014-2017)
- American-led intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
If you or a vet you know is dealing with military hearing loss or tinnitus, contact The Carlson Law Firm to schedule a free consultation with a defective 3M earplug lawsuit attorney. As a veteran-owned and operated law firm, we are dedicated to ensuring our fellow veterans receive justice. In addition, in many of these cases, there is no treatment available to reverse the effects of hearing loss and tinnitus.
How can a 3M Earplug Lawsuit Attorney Help?
The lawsuits against 3M will be litigated as a mass tort. This means that people will need to file their own individual lawsuit; however, cases will likely be consolidated in front of a single judge. Having a qualified 3M earplug lawsuit attorney on your side, building your case can make a difference in your recovery.
Call The Carlson Law Firm for Help Defending Your Rights
The Carlson Law Firm has built a reputation of success over its four-decade history. Our track record demonstrates our steadfast commitment to providing those who have suffered injuries as a result of company negligence with the highest quality of legal representation.
Hearing injuries as a result of 3M’s defective combat earplugs were preventable. Their misrepresentation of the safety of their product has led to thousands of hearing injuries for military service members. If you or a loved one has suffered hearing loss injuries as a result of 3M’s negligence, contact The Carlson Law Firm. We can help you get the just compensation you deserve for your hearing loss lawsuit.
While your hearing may never return, we can help recover lost wages, medical expenses and other damages. In addition, our legal team has the financial resources and skills to fight for your rights. Contact The Carlson Law Firm to discuss your options.