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  • Vargas Link posted an update 1 month ago

    The Minneapolis based 3M company produced the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs which were employed by military staff from the years 2003 to 2015 during fighting and training exercises in order to defend soldier hearing from gunfire and explosions. Hearing problems are the most frequent issues suffered by soldiers so hearing protection is a serious worry for U.S. soldiers. Based on various scenarios, the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs were designed to offer two different levels of protection. The dual-ended earplugs have a design that is very recognizable. As their name implies, they consisted of two outward facing plugs, one green and one yellow.

    While the yellow part was put inside the ear, this was recognized as Open Fire mode. This mode was created to offer normal hearing for top situational alertness. It could let staff to communicate, accept commands and listen to other important sounds on the battlefield whilst continuing to provide protection from top level noises such as gunfire and explosions. This would have been the desired scenario in combat situations.

    When

    veteran hearing was inserted inside the ear, this was known as Constant Protection mode. Constant Protection was designed to stop all sounds more thoroughly in order to offer full protection. Per 3M, the mode is for high-level sustained sound scenarios like those in tracked vehicles and air support. This mode may have also been used in several standard training exercises and environments as well.

    Claimed Hearing Issues

    Combat Arms EarplugsManufactured by 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc, Dual Ended Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2) were designed for military usage and used widely by thousands of servicemen deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 to 2015. The CAEV2 was designed to allow for two separate protection modes, Open Fire mode and Closed Protection mode. The appropriate setting is determined by which part of the earplug is inserted into the ear, yellow means Weapons Fire mode, green means Constant Protection mode. Weapons Fire mode was designed to allow for hearing speaking and communicating yet still protecting against damaging noise levels from gunfire and explosions. The Constant Protection level blocked all noise more fully which was useful for soldiers operating in track vehicles, in air support or while regular training. Both settings were claimed to block sounds up to a certain standard yet in recent litigation, the government has alleged that neither mode of the ear plug complied with the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) which 3M alleged because of an unreported design flaw.

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

    In July of 2018, the United States Department of Justice announced that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve claims that they knowingly sold the Combat Arms Earplugs v2 to the American military without disclosing defects that declined the effectiveness of the hearing defense device. The lawsuit was initially placed in 2016 under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act which allows private citizens to sue on behalf of the federal government whenever they believe that a defendant has made incorrect claims for government funds. In this case, the whistleblower was granted $1,911,000 for their part in the lawsuit.

    According to the Department of Justice press release, the settlement resolved claims that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. More specifically, the United States alleged that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for correct insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and then did not work well for certain people. It was additionally alleged that this design defect was known to 3M but wasn’t shared with the Department of Defense.

    Harm to Soldiers

    If the claims about 3M are correct, many servicemen could have used fault prone earplugs that didn’t protect them as the product was supposed to. Based on the claimed design flaw, the plugs may come loose while inside the ear unknown to the soldier letting damaging sounds to find their way into the ear. Harmful sound levels can have serious and lasting effects which include partial or total hearing loss, or tinnitus, a buzzing in the ears. Hearing loss is one of the most common issues suffered by active duty and former service personnel. Tinnitus, which can be debilitating, is just as frequent. According to a research scientist with the VA Portland Healthcare System, last year there were in excess of