The Minnesota-based 3M Company’s Combat Arms™ Earplugs, Version 2, was the standard issue ear plugs in certain branches of the military during foreign conflicts from 2003-2015. The earplugs were defective and caused thousands of service members to needlessly suffer permanent hearing loss and tinnitus. These earplugs have now been discontinued.
The defectively designed dual-ended earplug was too short, it was difficult to insert the plug deeply into some wearer’s ear canals and obtain a proper fit. Specifically, when the earplug is inserted into the ear according to standard fitting instructions, the basal edge of the third flange of the non-inserted end of the earplug is prone to press against some wearers’ ear canals and fold back to its original shape, thereby loosening the seal in their ear canals. The defect has the same effect when either end is inserted because the earplugs are symmetrical. In either scenario, the effect is that the earplug may not maintain a tight seal in some wearers’ ear canals such that dangerous sounds can bypass the plug altogether thereby posing serious risk to the wearer’s hearing unbeknownst to him or her.
These dangerous design defects were known to Aearo (predecessor to 3M) in 2000 (and later 3M) when it completed testing of the dual-ended Combat Arms™ earplugs. 3M falsely represented and certified that their earplugs complied with the military’s requirements and Salient Characteristics of Medical Procurements Item Description (”MPID”). 3M knew at all times their Combat Arms Earplugs would not block, or at least significantly reduce, loud impulse sounds such as battlefield explosions and gunfire, to the detriment of service members.
If you or a loved one has suffered hearing loss or tinnitus while serving in the military, Jensen & Steffey can help.