3M Defective Combat Arms Earplug Lawsuit

7/26/2022: An Important Update from Douglas & London

As you may be aware, Aearo, a subsidiary of 3M, filed for bankruptcy on July 26, 2022. This is a rapidly evolving situation which we continue to monitor. We have appeared before the federal MDL court in Florida and before the new bankruptcy court in Indianapolis via emergently scheduled hearings to oppose the ramifications this development might have on our clients and others. If you are a client of our firm, please expect further communication on this matter as issues develop.

What is the 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2)?

The 3M dual-ended combat arms earplugs were meant to be worn by military personnel to protect them from damaging their hearing.

The earplugs were designed to be worn in two ways. The wearer could insert the plugs one way if they needed to hear speech and another way if they needed greater noise protection. The plugs looked like two inverted cones connected at each bottom by a stem.



The earplugs were originally manufactured by Aearo Technologies, which was acquired by 3M in 2008. Aearo was aware of the plug’s defects as early as 2000, many years before it and 3M became the exclusive provider of “selective attenuation earplugs” to the military.

The U.S. government alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the earplugs were too short for proper insertion into users’ ears. As a result, the earplugs could gradually and subtly loosen until they did not perform the desired noise cancellation for certain individuals.

The United States also alleged that 3M did not disclose this design defect to the military when the contract was finalized.

3M’s Combat Arms earplugs would “loosen in the wearers ear, imperceptibly to the wearer and even trained audiologists visually observing a wearer, thereby permitting damaging sounds to enter the ear canal by traveling around outside of the earplug,”

Side Effects of Defective 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs?

These defects lead to tinnitus and hearing loss, which are the VA’s two most prevalent service-related disabilities, with 1,610,911 and 1,084,069 cases annually, according to the 2016 Annual Benefits Report issued by the Veterans Benefits Administration.

They are also the top two most compensated disabilities in the Veterans Benefits Administration. And the incidence of auditory injury among soldiers is rising by 13 percent to 18 percent a year.

In 2012, the Department of Defense established a Hearing Center of Excellence, which calls hearing loss an epidemic and reminds soldiers that “not all injuries bleed.”

What Does This Mass Tort Lawsuit Claim?

In a prior whistleblower lawsuit brought by Moldex-Metric, Inc., under the False Claims Act, the complaint alleged that 3M and Aearo Technologies manipulated test results to make it appear that the plugs met government standards.

This lawsuit claims that 3M allegedly knew their product was defective since before they were the exclusive provider for attenuation earplugs to the military and should therefore be liable for the injuries caused by their faulty earplugs.

Are You Eligible?

There is a cost to hearing loss; it’s linked to diminished earning potential, anxiety and depression. The VA spends $2 billion a year in hearing-related disability benefits — a number that is expected to rise to $5 billion in five years. Hearing aids can cost thousands; cochlear implants cost more.

Those who were in any branch in the U.S. military between 2003 and 2015 who used the 3M dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs while deployed in Iraq or Afghanistan and have been diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus by a healthcare provider are eligible to file a mass tort lawsuit against 3M.

In order to qualify, you must:

  • Have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan between 2003 and 2015
  • Be a member of the U.S. military
  • Have been diagnosed by a healthcare provider hearing loss or tinnitus

If you or a loved one meet the requirements listed above, you might be eligible for compensation. Please contact us online or by phone at (212) 566-7500 for a free legal consultation. There is no upfront cost and you only pay if we recover compensation for you on your behalf. In other words, you don’t pay unless we win.