Between the years 2003 and 2015, 3M was the exclusive provider of earplugs for the United States Military. The Combat Arms earplugs were designed to provide hearing protection, yet failed to do so. These standard issued earplugs likely caused thousands of soldiers to suffer significant hearing lossdeafnessear damage and tinnitus by exposing users to dangerous, occupational and explosive noises, such as from firearms and jet engines, which can cause significant hearing and ear damage, deafness, tinnitus and/or permanent hearing loss. 

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3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Defect Can Result in Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Between 2003 and 2013, 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Version 2 was the exclusive product used by all branches of the United States military, including the Navy, Army, Marines, and Air Force, in numerous military conflicts.  The 3M Arms Ear Plugs Version 2 were designed to protect against hearing loss from gunfire, explosions, bombings, and airfare.

The dual ended combat arms earbuds, which were intended to protect against hearing loss, were found to be defective. Injuries as a result of the defective earbuds range from tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) to partial or total hearing loss. If you suffer from tinnitus, hearing loss, partial or total hearing loss, you may qualify for a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs lawsuit.

3M Deceptively Certified that the Earbuds Were Up to Standards

We believe that 3M did not give out accurate information concerning this ear plug product. While information reflects that proper testing was not followed, 3M confirmed to the government the earbuds tested at the required 22 Noise Reduction Rating. “NRR” is a unit of measurement used to determine the effectiveness of hearing protection devices to decrease sound exposure within a given working environment. Classified by their potential to reduce noise in decibels (dB), a term used to categorize the power or density of sound, hearing protectors must be tested and approved by the American National Standards (ANSI) in accordance with the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA). The higher the NRR number associated with a hearing protector, the greater the potential for noise reduction. Instead of the required 22 NRR, the 3M earplug in reality tested at an average rate of about 10.9 NRR, a vast difference. The earbud itself was too short to be properly inserted into the ear canal. According to a lawsuit filed by the US Department of Justice, 3M has known since as early as 2000 that the 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs were defective.  

In the summer of 2018, 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the U.S. government to resolve allegations that it willingly and knowingly sold defective earbuds to the Defense Logistics Agency. The whistleblower, Moldex-Metric, Inc., alleged that 3M and its predecessor Aearo Technologies knew about the defect since 2000 but withheld the information, even after becoming the sole provider of earplugs to thousands of service men and women, from the government.

3M Company agreed to pay $9.1 million to the United States government to resolve allegations raised in a whistleblower lawsuit that the contractor knowingly sold defective combat arms earplugs to the U.S. military, allegedly putting service members at risk for hearing loss and tinnitus, among other problems. The allegations were brought under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows private parties to sue on behalf of the government in cases of fraud, where it is believed defendants may have submitted false claims for government funds. The settlement was the result of a joint effort by the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the Army Criminal Investigation Command, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

According to a press release from the Justice Department’s Civil Division, the allegations were brought against 3M through the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act is a federal statute that allows for criminal and civil penalties for “falsely billing the government, over-representing the amount of a delivered product, or under-stating an obligation to the government.” The complaint filed by the Justice Department alleged that in addition to damages directly associated with the contractual cost of the earplugs, “The United States has been damaged by the large and ongoing medical costs associated with treating veterans who likely suffered hearing damage and impairment as a result of the defective earplugs.” As part of the settlement, Moldex-Metrix, Inc., received $1.9 million.

Because they were issued allegedly defective combat earplugs manufactured by 3M, thousands of military service members may have suffered hearing loss or impairment that could have been avoided had the contractor provided adequate warnings about the earplugs’ potential design defects. If you were active in any branch of the military, including Reserves and National Guard, between 2003 and 2015, and you have suffered hearing loss, impairment, tinnitus or another debilitating hearing problem, you may have options for legal recourse. The defective earbuds were standard issue to all military personnel during the following military conflicts:

The Iraq War
War in Afghanistan
War in North-West Pakistan (part of War on Terror)
War in Somalia
Operation Ocean Shield in the Indian Ocean
American-led intervention in Libya (2011- part of Libyan Crisis)
American-led intervention in Iraq (2014 – 2017)
American-led Intervention in Syria (2014 to present)
Yemeni Civil War (2015 to present)
American Intervention in Libya (2015 to present)

In order to qualify to participate in a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit, you must meet the following:

Served in the US military between 2003 and 2015
Must have used military issued 3M Combat Arms earplugs during military service
Must have been diagnosed with unilateral or bilateral hearing loss

Must NOT have any of the following: 

Waardenburg syndrome
Branchiootorenal syndrome
Stickler syndrome
Usher syndrome
Pendred syndrome
Alport syndrome
Meniere’s disease

The 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Allegedly Causes Hearing Loss And Tinnitus

A major defect was not disclosed to the government. After providing the earbuds to the government for years, the defect brought to light the significant hearing damage the earbuds could have caused.  A lack of proper insertion into users ears caused irreparable hearing disabilities and loss.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, veterans who served overseas, specifically during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom between September 2001 and March 2010, were four times more likely to suffer from significant hearing loss than non-veterans.

Tinnitus and hearing loss are two of the most prevalent service-related disabilities affecting veterans today, and combat earplugs like 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) plugs are specifically designed to reduce the risk of these problems by providing increased noise cancellation. CAEv2 earplugs are “selective attenuation earplugs” meant to protect members of the armed forces from high-level noises like weapons fire and explosions, as well as constant noise such as that from armored vehicles and aircraft, all of which can damage their hearing. 

3M’s combat arms earplugs are meant to be worn by military service members in two ways. The earplugs are shaped like two inverted cones connected by a stem and are designed to be inserted into the ear one way to allow users to hear speech or the other way to provide greater noise protection. Unfortunately, flaws in the earplugs’ design may have kept them from going deep enough into the ears of certain users, and as a result, the earplugs may have failed to provide the desired noise cancellation. According to the comprehensive 2017 Annual Benefits Report published by the Veterans Benefits Administration, auditory disabilities were the number two cause of treatment between 2013 and 2017. Millions of military men and women were treated for auditory disabilities. Tinnitus and hearing loss are the top two service-connected disabilities treated by the Veteran’s Administration. However, the number of affected individuals may be higher because many do not report their injuries or seek treatment. The VA recently reported that more than 2.6 million veterans are currently receiving disability compensation for tinnitus, partial or total hearing loss.

Tinnitus is a ringing or buzzing in the years. While not considered a medical condition, it is an underlying cause of medical issues such as an ear injury or Auditory processing disorder (APD). For military members who used the 3M Combat Arms Earbuds Version 2, tinnitus could be a result of permanent hearing damage from not being properly protected when around deafening noises while deployed during the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.

If you believe you are suffering from tinnitus, hearing loss, or Auditory processing disorder (APD), contact a medical professional to diagnosis your injuries.

Do You Believe You Have Been Harmed By The Ear Plugs?

The Spencer Law Firm is proud to offer you legal assistance.  Our firm will be filing a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs Lawsuit on behalf of service men and women who unfortunately suffered serious ear injuries during military combat as the result of 3M’s actions.

If you are currently or were serving in the US military and served at any point in time between 2003 to 2015, and you suffer from tinnitus, partial or total hearing, you may be eligible to participate in a 3M Combat Arms Ear Plugs lawsuit. Call 1-888-237-4529 or 1-281-889-6700 (https://spencer-law.com/) to talk with an attorney at The Spencer Law Firm today. Please don’t wait as there are concerns regarding statutes of limitation on the time that you can bring a lawsuit.

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Disclaimer: The contents of this webpage have been prepared by Bonnie Spencer and The Spencer Law Firm for informational purposes only. None of this information is intended as either legal or medical advice or opinions. No attorney/client relationship is established with use of this website. Sending or receiving information through this site, posting to our blogs/news site does not establish an attorney/client relationship. An attorney/client relationship with The Spencer Law Firm is established only by an express and written agreement by The Spencer Law Firm to represent you. Our attorneys make a case-by-case assessment of any claims and results may vary depending on the facts concerning any case. The attorneys at The Spencer Law Firm are licensed to practice in Texas with the principal office in Houston, Texas. In some circumstances, cases may be sent to other qualified lawyers. In those circumstances, The Spencer Law Firm maintains joint responsibility.  Cases are taken on a contingency basis and expenses and fees will be deducted from any settlement or award.  If The Spencer Law Firm does not recover any funds in your case there will be no charge to you.


Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include: 

Hearing Loss
Permanent Hearing Damage
Tinnitus or Ringing in the Ears
Constant or recurring ringing, buzzing, roaring, clicking, hissing, humming
Hearing phantom noise when none exists
Muffling of speech and other sounds
Difficulty understanding words especially against background noise or in a crowd
Trouble hearing consonants

You will never be charged a fee unless a recovery is made for you.

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Bonnie E. Spencer 
The Spencer Law Firm
Principal Office
Executive Plaza, West Tower
4635 Southwest Freeway – Suite 900
Houston, Texas 77027-7104
Toll Free: (888) 237-4LAW
Tel: (713) 961-7770