From 2003 to 2015, Aearo Technologies Inc. and 3M Company sold its Combat Arms Earplugs™ to several branches of the U.S. military. These dual-ended earplugs were designed to protect military personnel from the loud noises servicemen and women are regularly exposed to in combat and training environments.
According to the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs, hearing loss, tinnitus (a constant ringing or buzzing in the ears), and hearing impairments are the most common forms of service-related disabilities. The Combat Arms Earplugs™ provided an immediate solution to the need for hearing protection among service members and were standard issue for millions of U.S. soldiers, particularly those deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s, until 3M stopped selling them in 2015.
Later in 2016, a whistleblower complaint alleged that 3M knowingly sold defective earplugs to the military for more than a decade, putting the millions of soldiers who used them at risk of hearing damage. 3M later paid $9.1 million to the United States Department of Justice to resolve these claims, but admitted no wrongdoing.
Now, hundreds of veterans who have suffered debilitating hearing problems have filed lawsuits against the company.