Defective 3M Earplugs Caused Hearing Damage in Service Members

defective 3M earplugs
flickr/Judit Klein

More former U.S. service members continue coming forward over defective 3M earplugs causing significant permanent hearing damage. They allege that the manufacturer deliberately withheld information about the earplugs’ problems from the U.S. government and service members to safeguard profits at the risk of those laying down their lives for our nation.

William Peek and Jared Pullium filed the complaint January 25 in the District of Minnesota. They indicate that 3M Company and its Aearo Technologies acquisition knew the Combat Arms earplugs were patently defective and did not offer adequate hearing protection. However, the companies continued to  profit off the defective 3M earplugs, placing millions of soldiers in harm’s way to shore up their mutual bottom lines.

Defective 3M Earplugs Lawsuit Allegations

Peek served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1989 through 2009, as a Brig and Drill Instructor and on a convoy team. The compliant indicates the military issued him Combat Arms earplugs before deploying him to Iraq in 2004. During his deployment, combat and training subjected him two loud noises from mortar and rocket attacks. Consequently, he received a tinnitus diagnosis in 2006 and also continues to suffer from permanent hearing loss from the defective 3M earplugs.

Pullium served in the U.S. Air Force from 2008 to 2012, as a Military Police Officer. The military provided him with the defective 3M earplugs in 2008. During his deployment to Kuwait in 2008 and 2012, he used the Combat Arms earplugs at firing ranges and when in combat. Subsequently, he received a hearing loss and tinnitus diagnosis in 2013. He was only 22 years old.

Neither veteran had any signs of hearing loss or damage before receiving the defective 3M earplugs in the military. They never received proper instruction on their use or warnings that they were too short and could move out of position. Consequently, military service members didn’t have adequate hearing protection once the earplugs failed to seal the ear canal.

Defective 3M Earplugs Background

Aero initially introduced the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) before 3M acquired the company. The manufacturer designed the earplugs to work as traditional earplugs when placed one way and they provided filtered noise reduction the other, blocking battlefield noises, while allowing spoken commands to come through.

“The Combat Arms earplugs contained no warnings, or in the alternative, inadequate warnings and/or instructions, as to the risk that the Combat Arms earplugs would allow damaging sounds to bypass the earplug thereby posing a serious risk to Plaintiffs’ hearing unbeknownst to Plaintiffs,” the complaints states. “The warning and instructions that accompanied the Combat Arms earplugs failed to provide the level of information that an ordinary wearer would expect when using the Combat Arms earplugs in a manner reasonably foreseeable to Defendants.”

In July 2018, 3M reached a $9.1 million settlement with the Department of Justice over the Combat Arms earplug defects and subsequent problems. The settlement resolved claims that 3M actively defrauded the government by knowingly providing and promoting the defective earplugs, causing the government to have to address soldier hearing loss.

Peek and Pullium join the rapidly growing ranks of individuals filing lawsuits over the defective 3M earplugs causing permanent hearing loss. More than three million U.S. veterans suffer from hearing loss or tinnitus. Many of these service members’ hearing could have been spared if 3M had disclosed the defects instead of seeking to profit from the dangerous product.