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Using the Defective 3M Earplugs Can Lead to Hearing Problems among Veterans

Posted on 20th September, 2020

by Legal Staff

Between 2003 and 2015, millions of members of the military were given the defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs, which failed to completely protect the individuals from the loud noises they were constantly exposed to. The earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies Inc. and the company had the exclusive contract to supply earplugs to the military. In 2008, 3M acquired Aearo Technologies Inc. and continued to supply the Defense Logistics Agency with defective earplugs until 2015. The earplugs were defective because the part that should have been fitted in the ear canal was too short and thereby the product could not hold tight within the ear.

The defective 3M Combat Arms earplugs were supplied to multiple branches of the military, including the Navy, the Army, the Marines, the Air Force, the National Guards and the Reserve. It is estimated that the military would receive 15,000 earplugs packages every year, each package containing 50 pairs of earplugs. Since they had a faulty design, veterans who served during the time the earplugs were used are now at high risk of developing hearing problems. According to medical research, over 800,000 Afghanistan and Iraq war veterans may have been injured by the 3M defective Combat Arms earplugs. However, the defective earplugs may still be supplied to the military today, as they were never recalled and some vendors are not aware of the fact that they are defective.

What Loud Noises Were Members of the Military Exposed To?

In the Navy, the area of the ship with the loudest noises was the engine room, generating between 98 to 160 adjusted decibels (dbA), which is well above the 90 dbA permissible limit established by OSHA. Furthermore, carrier decks made the loudest noise, whereas landing ship tanks and patrol vessels were the quietest. As for the Army, people who served in this military branch were mostly exposed to loud noises made by weapons, such as:

  • hand grenade: 158 dB
  • 20-gauge shotgun: 8 dB
  • 12-gauge shotgun: 156.1-161.5 dB
  • .22 pistol: 151 dB
  • 9 mm Luger: 169-163 dB
  • Light anti-tank weapon: 184 dB

Lastly, people who served in the Air Force were exposed to the chronic loud noise the aircraft would generate, as well as to the sounds made by the following:

  • service helicopters: 97-100 dbA
  • fighter planes: 97- 104 dbA
  • jet trainers: 100-106 dbA
  • transporter aircraft: 88-101 dbA

What Hearing Problems Can Veterans Who Used the Defective Earplugs Develop?

There are numerous forms of hearing impairment veterans may come to struggle with after using the defective 3M earplugs. While some hearing problems arise when they are still in the military or right after they are discharged, others develop later in life. The following are the most common hearing problems veterans who were provided with defective earplugs may develop as a result of permanent exposure to loud noises:

  • permanent hear loss
  • hearing impairment
  • auditory processing disorder
  • acoustic neuroma
  • neurofibromatosis
  • conductive hearing loss
  • sensorineural hearing loss
  • auditory neuropathy
  • tinnitus

It is worthy of note that veterans who were injured by the 3M defective earplugs are entitled to compensation both from the VA and from the liable company. The VA assigns a disability rating of maximum 30% to veterans who struggle with hearing problems, which means that they will receive approximately $435.69 every month after they file a claim. Nevertheless, it is important to know that filing a claim for hearing problems with the VA does not disqualify you from recovering compensation from 3M, as veterans are eligible for compensation from both sources.

If You Developed a Hearing Disability as a Result of the Defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs You May Be Entitled to Compensation

In the regrettable event that using defective earplugs while serving in the military resulted in a hearing problem, we strongly encourage you to contact Atraxia Law to find out about your eligibility status.

If you qualify for compensation, we will help you gather the necessary evidence and prepare your claim within the shortest time possible. For additional information, please contact us and we will promptly answer all your questions and address all your concerns.