3M Earplug Injuries
Between 2003 and 2015, 3M supplied the United States military with standard issue dual-sided earplugs. The earplugs were used by all branches of the military in domestic and foreign affairs, including operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Studies have revealed that the 3M Combat Arms Earplugs contain a design defect. The end of the earplug inserted into the wearer’s ear is too short. This caused the earplug to loosen ever so slightly in the wearer’s ear after insertion. Noise intended to be dampened or blocked out can get through. As a result, military veterans who served during this time are now struggling with significant hearing loss injuries.
3M Combat Arms Earplugs Linked to Hearing Loss in Veterans
3M allegedly supplied the military with defective earplugs. As a result, active duty servicemembers were likely subjected to incredibly hazardous noise levels. Hundreds of military veterans have filed lawsuits against 3M, claiming that the defective earplugs led to significant injuries, including:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Tinnitus, and
- Auditory processing disorder.
The veterans claim that they sustained these injuries because 3M knowingly supplied the military with defective earplugs. The 3M earplug lawsuits demand accountability and compensation.
Rising Number of Veterans Diagnosed With Permanent Hearing Loss
Hearing loss has always been a serious problem for many military veterans. At some point during their service, all members will be exposed to hazardous and dangerous noise levels. Studies have revealed that combat exposure increases the risk of hearing loss by as much as 63 percent.
According to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA), prevention is essential in limiting hearing loss injuries. Earplugs play a critical role. Unfortunately, the number of veterans suffering from hearing loss has increased in recent years. In 2012, the VA reported that noise-induced hearing loss was the third most prevalent service-connected disability for military veterans. By 2017, hearing loss injuries were cited as the second most prevalent disability for veterans of the United States military.
It’s believed that 3M’s defective earplugs have contributed to the rising problem. The earplugs dislodged in the ear canal and exposed the wearer to toxic levels of noise and sound.
3M Earplugs Responsible For Temporary and Permanent Hearing Loss
Studies have shown that half of all military combat veterans will experience moderately severe hearing loss or worse. Most veterans will be diagnosed with one of two hearing loss diseases: conductive hearing loss or sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when the eardrum and middle ear are damaged. As a result, sounds cannot get through the ear canal. Veterans with conductive hearing loss often hear muffled noises and have a difficult time hearing soft sounds. In most cases, conductive hearing loss can be treated with medication or surgery. This type of hearing loss is typically temporary.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear and auditory nerve are damaged. The nerve damage prevents the brain from processing sounds after they enter the ear canal. This type of hearing loss is often permanent. However, hearing aids can help some veterans retain some level of hearing.
The level of sound to which veterans are exposed will often dictate which type of hearing loss injury they’ll experience.
Tinnitus in Military Veterans
Tinnitus is a condition characterized by a perception of a ringing, clicking, hissing, or buzzing noise in one or both ears. According to the VA, tinnitus is the number one disability reported among military veterans. In fact, more than 1.5 million veterans are currently receiving disability benefits for tinnitus.
Exposure to loud noises in combat is a leading cause of tinnitus in military personnel. Earplugs are provided to help dampen sounds that would ordinarily contribute to hearing loss and tinnitus. Unfortunately, many veterans are now experiencing tinnitus because the standard issue 3M earplugs they received were defective.
There is no known cure for tinnitus. Instead, military veterans must find ways to cope with and manage the disease. Self-management can include relaxation exercises, meditation, and exercise. Some veterans have found that hearing aids and white noise machines help to drown out the irritating ringing sound.
Tinnitus Linked With Decreased Ability to Manage Symptoms of PTSD
Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a common problem for many military veterans. The VA reports that anywhere between 11 and 30 percent of veterans will have PTSD at some point in their lives. Studies suggest that veterans who are diagnosed with tinnitus may be less capable of managing their PTSD. The added stress of a constant ringing in the ears contributes to irritability and decreased confidence.Depression, Anxiety More Common in Veterans With Tinnitus
Veterans with tinnitus are also more likely than others to suffer from anxiety and/or depression. In 2015, researchers in California studied 91 veterans diagnosed with tinnitus. The study revealed that 72 percent experienced anxiety, 59 percent showed signs of depression, and 58 percent suffered from both mental health issues.
Auditory Processing Disorder in Combat Veterans
Combat soldiers are instructed to wear earplugs to minimize the potential consequences of blast exposure. Unfortunately, defective earplugs exposed members of the military to unsafe levels of noise. As a result, many veterans are being diagnosed with auditory processing disorder.
Auditory processing disorder is a condition where veterans have difficulty understanding speech. Nerve damage makes it difficult to:
- Recognize differences between sounds
- Distinguish where sounds are coming from, and
- Block out background noise.
Veterans with auditory processing disorder often perform well on standard hearing tests. The ability to hear sound is not compromised. Instead, the ability to process and understand sounds is impaired.
Auditory processing disorder can contribute to irritability, confusion, and anger among military veterans. Veterans suffering from PTSD may find that it is more difficult to manage their symptoms and integrate into civilian society when they also have difficulty processing the world around them.
Hundreds of Military Veterans Suing 3M For Hearing Loss Injuries
In 2019, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the United States government over allegations that the company fraudulently supplied the military with defective earplugs for more than a decade. Injured military veterans won’t see any of that money. Instead, veterans across the nation are filing their own product liability lawsuits against 3M.
The lawsuits allege:
- 3M earplugs are unreasonably dangerous and defective;
- 3M knew about the defect but continued to provide them to the military; and
- 3M failed to provide instructions about how to minimize the risks posed by the defect.
Did you serve in the United States military between 2003 and 2015? Did you receive standard issue 3M earplugs during your tenure with the military? Have you been diagnosed with a hearing loss injury? If so, you may be entitled to compensation.
Contact Rosen Injury Lawyers today to schedule a no-obligation case assessment. Our attorneys are prepared to help you fight for the money you deserve. Your first consultation is free, so call our law firm for help today.