3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs™, the “CAEv2’s“, issued to about 2.5 million service members over a 12 year period, were defectively designed causing the men and women serving our Country to be exposed to dangerous levels of training and combat-related noise (gunfire, explosions, etc.).
CAEv2’s were supposed to be traditional earplugs when used one way (dark end inserted into ear), and ‘filtration devices’, blocking battlefield noise while sill allowing soldiers to hear each other (and their orders!), when reversed (yellow end inserted into ear). Incredibly, 3M knew the earplugs were too short to properly fit in the ear effectively and did not properly seal the ear canal, leaving service men and women with inadequate hearing protection.
In July of 2018 3M agreed to pay over $9 million to the government in order to resolve allegations they knowingly sold CAEv2’s to our military without disclosing the defective nature of the earplugs.
“Specifically, the United States alleged that 3M … knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals. The United States further alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military.”
However, no compensation was or has been provided to the actual service members who suffered the effects of the defective earplugs and experienced hearing loss.
As explained by Mary Roach in her article Hearing Loss is a Soldier’s Dire Enemy: “Most earplugs reduce noise by 30-some decibels. This is helpful with a steady, grinding background din—a Bradley Fighting Vehicle clattering over asphalt (130 decibels), or the thrum of a Black Hawk helicopter (106 decibels). Thirty decibels is more significant than it sounds. Every 3-decibel increase in a loud noise cuts in half the amount of time one can be exposed without risking hearing damage. An unprotected human ear can spend eight hours a day exposed to 85 decibels (freeway noise, crowded restaurant) without incurring a hearing loss. At 115 decibels (chainsaw, mosh pit), safe exposure time falls to half a minute. The 187-decibel boom of an AT4 anti-tank weapon lasts a second, but even that ultrabrief exposure would, to an unprotected ear, mean a permanent downtick in hearing.”
Since hearing loss impacts the operational effectiveness and medical readiness of active duty service members, adequate hearing protection is a top priority. Hearing loss can intensify anxiety, depression, insomnia, headaches and dizziness, and is the most prevalent service-related disability among U.S. veterans. As a result of 3M’s faulty earplugs thousands of veterans have experienced hearing loss and ringing or buzzing in their ears (“tinnitus“). In fact, many veterans likely have significant hearing damage and do not know it. According to the U.S. Veteran’s Administration about 50% of service members return from active duty with moderate to severe hearing damage, with nearly three million veterans currently receiving benefits for hearing loss or incurable “tinnitus”. In 2014 some 2.2 million veterans received disability benefits for hearing impairment or “tinnitus”, and by 2017 that number had increased to 2.7 million vets. Today, approximately 20% of all veterans who served between 2003 and 2015 receive disability compensation for “tinnitus” and/or hearing loss. If you suspect you might have hearing loss you should have your hearing checked by a medical professional.
If you are an active service member or veteran who served between 2003 and 2015, were issued CAEv2 Earplugs, and have been diagnosed with hearing loss or Tinnitus, contact us online or call us at 1-866-252-3535.
*If you are a veteran, filing a personal injury lawsuit against 3M should not affect your disability compensation since the government awards benefits based on disability ratings as opposed to income level. Click here to read a more detailed explanation.