Earplugs are a crucial part of maintaining ear longevity well into later life, but what happens when the United States Military unknowingly puts their soldiers’ hearing at risk?
That’s the case of the 3M earplug lawsuit that harmed the hearing of thousands of military personnel. While the case has since been settled, you may be eligible to get compensation for your hindered hearing.
What Are 3M Earplugs?
The earplugs 3M sold to the U.S. military were called Dual-Extended Combat Arms, Version 2. They have a long diamond shape, like two Christmas trees stuck to the bottom of each other. One side was yellow, and the other was black.
The yellow side was supposedly designed to allow the user to hear low levels of noise, such as interpersonal conversations or announcements. They could immediately switch to the other black side when faced with louder sound.
The earplugs were pre-molded with a triangle shape to capture noise and block sounds from reaching the ear canal. They were reusable and easily cleanable, fitting most ear canals.
However, not only were the earplugs inefficient at blocking noise, but they were too short in the average user’s ear canal to block noise effectively. The poor earplugs put millions of people’s hearing at risk for hearing loss and tinnitus.
Military and Loud Noises
The human ear can withstand loud noises for about 15 minutes, but most soldiers don’t work for only 15 minutes at a time. The most booming sound allowed by federal regulations is 115 decibels for less than fifteen minutes.
Employers must provide workers hearing protection devices for any noise more emphatic than that for longer than 15 minutes.
People who work in the military are typically exposed to about 103 to 184 decibels of noise for hours at a time, which is enough to impair someone’s hearing dramatically.
Therefore, it was crucial for the government to provide military hearing protection.
What is Tinnitus?
Tinnitus is when someone hears a constant ringing in their ears, even when their environment is quiet. The sound varies in volume, ranging from soft to loud enough to bother the individual, and they could detect hissing, whistling, buzzing, or chirping in addition to ringing.
Tinnitus is most commonly noticed when in a quiet room. The ringing never goes away. It’s estimated that 50 million U.S. adults are affected by it.
In severe cases, the ringing can be so loud it causes the individual to lose sleep and concentration, hinder relationships, and result in psychological stress.
What Causes Tinnitus?
Tinnitus can be in conjunction with hearing loss, but not always. Someone can develop tinnitus without their hearing getting reduced, as tinnitus is caused by damage to the hair cells of the inner ear.
These hairs typically move with sound waves, but excess noise can be so powerful it bends or breaks the little hairs in the inner ear. These broken hairs can stimulate the auditory nerve in the brain, which it interprets as sounds such as ringing.
Exposure to prolonged loud noises causes 90% of tinnitus cases, but ear blockages can also cause it too. Pilots, rock musicians, landscapers who work with power tools, and even military soldiers can get tinnitus if exposed to constant loud noises. Even exposure to one, deafening noise, such as a bomb explosion, is enough to cause tinnitus.
Loud Noises, Explained
Before continuing, we need to provide context to the loud noises heard commonly in the military and why they can damage hearing.
There noises so loud that they cause pain in the ears. These noises are not safe to hear for any period. The noises include shotgun sounds and fireworks from three feet away, coming in at 150 decibels.
Another painful noise is the sound of firearms being shot off, which are 140 decibels in volume.
Jet planes taking off, sirens, jackhammers, and drills have a 120-130 decibel output, and all of these types of noises would be common in a military environment. This decibel sound range causes painful hearing as well and should be avoided as much as possible for maximum hearing health.
It was crucial for military personnel to use safe and effective hearing protection devices to prevent tinnitus and other hearing impairments, but that wasn’t the case with 3M and the United States military.
What Happened With 3M Earplugs and the Military?
To boil it down, 3M sold the United States military defective earplugs. The types Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 were too short to block noise effectively, and they were also made of ineffective material the reduced noise by zero.
3M tested their Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 and found that they were inefficient at protecting people’s hearing, but the company proceeded to sell the U.S military useless earplugs anyway from 2003 to 2015.
3M sold defective earplugs to the U.S. Military, despite labeling the products as military hearing protection. According to an interview with attorney Laura Holland, 3M new their earplugs were defective since before they signed a contract with the military.
The U.S. military would not have known about the defective earplugs had not a whistleblower come forward.
The earplugs were widely used throughout the military from 2003 to 2015. Anyone who went through training would have been exposed to loud noises, either through shooting off firearms, hearing grenades explode, or simply being trained.
Because of the defective earplugs, and soldiers worked in loud conditions, they could face hearing loss or tinnitus as a result of 3M’s negligence to provide adequate military hearing protection.
The 3M Earplug Lawsuit
A whistleblower in July of 2018 alerted the U.S. military of the earplug’s failure and 3M’s negligence, stating that the company knew since 2000 that the earplugs did not protect people’s hearing.
Thus, the Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 gave people the illusion of protecting people’s hearing without actually doing so. The military hearing loss affected thousands, if not millions, of people.
Once the whistleblower came forward and alerted the U.S. military of 3M’s defective earplugs, they proceeded into a legal battle. The U.S. government sued 3M for “gross negligence,” according to the legal copy for the 3M lawsuit.
What is the Average 3M Earplug Lawsuit Payout?
The trial didn’t even go to court, as 3M settling on the matter, according to Laura Holland. The company agreed to pay the U.S. government $9.1 million, with one million dollars going to the whistleblower.
Notice that the money goes to the government, not individual military soldiers who were the ones who had their hearing damaged or who acquired tinnitus while on the job.
The average 3M earplug lawsuit payout to the U.S. government was $1,400 a day for people’s blown eardrums.
How Much Are Soldiers Getting for the 3M Lawsuit?
There aren’t exact numbers on how many people had hearing impairments or developed tinnitus as a result of 3M’s negligence. It’s hard to say how much of the 3M earplug lawsuit payout reached affected veterans.
A lawsuit ended up with a payout of a whopping 9.1 million dollars, not counting that over 1 million is supposed to go to the “whistleblower.” The settlement works out to short of $1,400 a day for millions of earplugs and millions of blown eardrums.
As of late 2018, more than 2,200 lawsuits had been filed for the 3M settlement money for 3M lawsuits, but the whistleblower was the only one to have settled with the 3M earplug lawsuit payout.
If you are a veteran who used the Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 and incurred military hearing loss, you’re eligible to receive compensation.
The best way to do that is to contact a 3M earplug lawyer to accomplish that task.
How to Find a 3M Lawyer or Attorney
There are multiple ways to find the right attorney for you to spur a 3M lawsuit.
Contact a worker’s compensation lawyer who specializes in helping veterans. Many lawyers seek to help people receive damages for wrongful workplace injuries, and the U.S. military is no exception. As seen here, the government unknowingly put their employees in danger, and so it’s not a logical stretch to think that this happened in previous scenarios.
Hundreds of lawyers would be happy to help veterans get compensation for injuries incurred during their time in the military, so don’t disregard hearing loss or tinnitus as a small issue.
There are attorneys who can help you get the money you deserve for 3M’s negligence.
As of publication, it’s been about a year since the whistleblower informed the government of 3M’s wrongdoings. Lawyers and attorneys have had plenty of time to read up on the legal proceedings and find the best strategies to fight the company.
Contact Hutchison & Stoy. Our lawyers understand that, in a perfect world, every company would sell honest products that perform at the levels customers expect them to perform at. No worker will get hurt on the job, and no one will suffer discrimination based on their identities or background.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world, so the Warriors for Justice have vowed to fight for workers who were hurt and reinstate their workplace rights.
Hutchison & Stoy attorneys seek to fight against amoral companies or employers who knowingly or unknowingly operated without their worker’s best interests.
Our lawyers can handle nearly any case of discrimination or negligence in the workplace case. Whether it’s sexual harassment, unpaid wages, employer retaliation, or any other circumstance in which an employer obstructed their worker’s health, safety, and economic status.
This 3M earplug lawsuit debacle certainly falls under Warrior for Justice’s expertise. Hutchison & Stoy, the leadership team behind the firm, knows how to win verdicts and settle against employers.
We know how to get you the 3M earplug lawsuit payout you deserve, but time is of the essence. Don’t hesitate to call us for legal advice. You can also fill out the free case evaluation form to have one of our attorneys review your case.
How to Contact Hutchison & Stoy, PLLC
If you worked for the military between 2003 and 2015 and had military hearing loss because of the faulty Combat Arms Earplug Version 2, contact our office today.
You can call us on the phone. The Hutchison & Stoy phone number is (817) 820-0100.
You can also fill out and submit the free case evaluation on our website, which can be used as a 3M earplug lawsuit claim form. By providing a brief explanation of your situation, you can quickly get in touch with a lawyer who can immediately see if you can get the compensation you deserve.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait to Call a Lawyer for the 3M Earplug Lawsuit
Hutchison & Stoy is the legal counsel for anyone and everyone who’s been hurt or discriminated against in the workplace. While we provide top-notch legal counsel, we won’t know how to help you unless you give us a call for something as important as your hearing.
Your hearing naturally gets worse as you age, but hearing damage and tinnitus accelerate that process. You’ll need to see specialized doctors who can investigate your hearing to assess the severity of the damage done and if you’ll need corrective measures to prevent further damage.
Seeing such doctors can be expensive, but since 3M knew they were putting your hearing at risk, you deserve some of the money they gave to the U.S. government for those damages.
Hearing loss can reduce your quality of life, so time is crucial to ensuring you can set your life back on track after damaged hearing or developing tinnitus.
Stop putting it off and contact a Warrior for Justice for expert legal counsel for a 3M lawsuit.