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    The Minnesota based 3M company produced the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs that were employed by armed services staff from the years 2003 to 2015 during combat and training exercises in order to guard personnel hearing from gunfire and explosions. Hearing problems are the most frequent issues suffered by soldiers so hearing defense is a serious concern for American soldiers. Based on various scenarios, the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs were designed to provide two different levels of protection. The dual-ended earplugs have a design that is very recognizable. As their name suggests, they consisted of two outward facing earplugs, one green and one yellow.

    While the yellow part was put inside the ear, this was known as Open Fire mode.

    combat earplugs was designed to provide normal hearing for top situational alertness. It would let soldiers to communicate, accept commands and listen to other important sounds on the combat field whilst still providing defense from top level noises like gunfire and explosions. This could have been the desired level in combat situations.

    When the green end was placed inside the ear, this was known as Closed Protection mode. Constant Protection was designed to stop all noise more thoroughly in order to provide full defense. According to 3M, the mode is for high level steady sound scenarios like those in tracked vehicles and air support. This level could have additionally been used in many standard practice exercises and environments as well.

    Alleged Hearing Risks

    Combat Arms EarplugsManufactured by 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc, Dual Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were created for military usage and used extensively by thousands of personnel sent to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 to 2015. The CAEV2 was designed to let two different protection settings, Weapons Fire mode and Closed Protection mode. The applicable level is determined by which side of the plug is placed inside the ear, yellow means Weapons Fire mode, green for Constant Protection mode. Weapons Fire mode is designed to allow for hearing speaking and communicating yet still protecting against damaging sound levels from gunfire and explosions. The Constant Protection level blocked all noise more completely that was useful for personnel operating in track vehicles, in air support or during regular training. Each settings were purported to stop sounds up to a specific level yet in current legal action, the government has alleged that neither mode of the ear plug met the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) which 3M claimed due to a non-reported manufacturing error.

    $9.1 million Settlement Between 3M and the U.S. Government

    In July of 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice reported that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that they knowingly sold the Combat Arms Earplugs v2 to the U.S. military without admitting errors that declined the effectiveness of the hearing protection device. The lawsuit was initially filed in 2016 under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act that permits private citizens to sue for the federal government whenever they think that a defendant has made false claims for government funds. In this issue, the whistleblower was awarded $1,911,000 for their part in the lawsuit.

    According to the Department of Justice press announcement, the settlement resolved allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by marketing or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, the U.S. claimed that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., were aware that the CAEv2 was too short for correct insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could come loose slightly and therefore didn’t perform well for some people. It was additionally alleged that this design error was known to 3M but was not shared with the Department of Defense.

    Harm to Soldiers

    If the claims about 3M are correct, thousands of servicemen might have used fault prone earplugs that did not defend them as the equipment was supposed to. Based on the alleged design error, the earplugs could come loose while inside the ear unknown to the soldier letting damaging noise to find their way into the ear. Dangerous noise levels may have serious and permanent effects which include partial or total hearing loss, or tinnitus, a buzzing inside the ears. Hearing loss is one of the most frequent issues suffered by active duty and former service personnel. Tinnitus, which might be debilitating, is just as prevalent. According to a research scientist with the VA Portland Healthcare System, last year there were over 1.6 million service personnel searching for medical care for chronic tinnitus.

    You Can be Entitled for Compensation

    If you or a loved one were given Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs during service in the military between 2003 and 2015, and have since experienced partial or total hearing damage or suffer from tinnitus, your scenario should be discussed with the Meneo Law Group to explore all options available to you.