If you’re a veteran who served from 2003 to 2015 who used 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs, there’s a possibility that you may suffer from tinnitus, commonly known as ringing in the ears. If you suspect you may have tinnitus but are unsure of the symptoms and what to do about it, the Spencer Law Firm is here to help.

What is tinnitus?

Harvard Health defines tinnitus as “sound in the head with no external source. For many, it’s a ringing sound, while for others, it’s whistling, chirping, hissing, humming, roaring, or even shrieking.” Harvard Health says as many as 50 to 60 million people in the United States suffer from tinnitus.

Sound waves travel through the ears, where hair cells transforms the sounds into electrical signals that can be interpreted by the brain. Hair cells exposed to consistently loud noises can become damaged, causing them to send electrical signals to the brain for sounds that do not exist.

How common is tinnitus in veterans?

Tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The agency says although tinnitus is common in veterans, there are no tests that can reliably diagnose the condition.

Since veterans are commonly involved in activities that include loud noises such as gunfire, explosions and using military vehicles, it’s easy to see how military members frequently suffer from tinnitus, even years after their service.

Many veterans believe they developed tinnitus after using earplugs manufactured by 3M during their service. CBS News reports 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the government after allegedly defrauding the government after selling earplugs with “dangerous design defects.” Since then, hundreds of veterans are expected to file lawsuits against 3M, who they believe knowingly sold them defective earplugs.

Read our follow up post to see what you can do about tinnitus.