3M and Aearo Technologies Fail to Deliver on Earplug Claims
Aearo Technologies, which 3M eventually bought, won a U.S. government contract to supply the ear-plugs, with the claim that it was a superior product called a “selective attenuation earplug.” The design of these earplugs was dual-ended, so each side performed a different function. The yellow side, which had an open end, permitted low level sounds like voice commands to get through to the ear. The darker, olive green side, or “closed end,” provided protection for medium and high level noise.
The aim of this design was to provide sufficient hearing protection that would be suitable for team communication and lower frequency hearing on one side, but providing far more protection from gunfire noise and other likely noises due to training and combat on the other side.
Countless cases of serious injury to military personnel due to 3M’s defective design and untrustworthy testing procedures took place. When the earplugs were tested they were much too large to fit comfortably within the ear canal and completely seal it from any damaging sounds. Due to this defect, the earplugs were loose fitting. Looking from the outside it was just about impossible to work out whether the earplug was adequately sealing the ear canal, which allowed explosive sounds to enter the ear and injure U.S. servicemen/women.
3M and Aearo Technologies tried to correct the design defect when experimenting on personnel by altering the fitting procedure so that the earplugs fitted fully and deeply into the subject’s ear. To be able to complete this, the Aearo staff member folded the yellow flanges back on the earplug’s open end. This meant it was elongated so it would do a better job of sealing the ear from noise. Soldiers who were required to wear the product were not told about the alterations that had been made to it when they used it while training or while in combat.
3M and Aearo Technologies couldn’t ignore the fact that the earplugs were not designed well when they sold them to the United States government as a standard piece of protective gear intended to be used by millions of military personnel.
Injuries caused from the use of 3M’s dual-sided earplugs
Numerous armed forces personnel reported serious hearing injuries after using these devices. The injuries ranged from full to partial hearing loss and for some tinnitus.
Soldiers need protection from hearing loss
Soldiers, when in training or combat, are as a matter of routine exposed to higher than normal decibel levels. Any noise that exceeds 85 dB could cause different levels of hearing loss. In order to avoid this debilitating hearing loss superior ear protection is vital so service members can perform the jobs required of them and not be unnecessarily injured.
Noises that could cause hearing loss
Noise created after a missile is launched, following a bomb explosion, shoulder-fired rocket and gunfire, could cause serious damage to the inner ear hairs or the nerve cells located within the cochlea. These are fragile parts of the ear. When they are damaged, the transmission of electrical signals to the brain is lost and this leads to hearing impairment.
Tinnitus is not easy to detect
A doctor can conduct a test which detects loss of hearing but tinnitus as such can’t be detected by use of this test. A person might be diagnosed with tinnitus after a doctor has asked the victim a number of questions. Tinnitus mainly occurs following damage to the fragile inner ear’s hair cells when they respond to sound waves. When injured, they could send to the brain “noise signals” even when there is no sound present.
Symptoms of tinnitus are noises which occur in the ear such as:
Tinnitus or hearing loss can have serious consequences to the victim and may even have a negative effect on both emotional and mental health. It has a h3 link with anxiety and depression, and it could be a contributory factor in the high suicide rates amongst war veterans. Some veterans once they leave the military find it difficult to source employment opportunities because of their hearing loss caused by the earplug-induced hearing deficit.
The Veterans Association has recorded tinnitus and hearing loss more frequently than other injuries. In addition, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has reported that veterans who participated in the Iraq War, following the attacks on September 11th, have a four times higher chance of suffering from hearing impairments. 3M, as a U.S. military contractor, had provided these defective earplugs to members of the military from 2003 to 2015.
What to do if you have been told you are suffering from hearing loss or tinnitus
There were many ex-military personnel who were sent on combat duty to war zones between 2003 and 2015 and are now having to bear the consequences of wearing defective ear plugs produced by 3M and Aearo Technologies. If you are one of these victims, don’t hesitate to contact Coffey McPharlin who may be able to help you file a lawsuit against the companies responsible for manufacturing and selling defective ear plugs to the U.S. government.
If you used 3M Dual-Ended Combat Earplugs and you developed hearing loss, we think you may have a case.