According to claims filed by tens of thousands of service members, Duel-ended Combat Arms Earplugs issued to protect their hearing on the battlefield failed miserably.
3M manufactured the earplugs and exclusively provided them to the U.S. Armed Forces from 2006 to 2015.
In 2016, a whistleblower lawsuit alleged 3M knowingly failed to meet military standards for earplugs. In addition, the suit says, 3M employees knew as far back as 20 years ago that the earplugs provided no hearing protection at all.
In April, the Stars & Stripes newspaper reported a federal judge in Pensacola, Fla., unsealed hundreds of court documents in the case. They included emails, depositions, memos, and receipts connected to the mass purchase by the Department of Defense of the earplugs from 2003 to 2015.
Dual ended Combat Arms Earplugs were designed to serve two purposes. When the military member inserted the yellow end into their ear, they could still hear some sounds. But when they inserted the green end, it was supposed to provide hearing protection like a standard earplug would.
According to S&S, the unsealed documents revealed that of 3M’s U.S. hearing protection business revenue, the earplugs totaled 5%. In addition, sales of the earplugs made up 20% of the St. Paul, Minn., company’s operating income. The military paid $7.63 for a set of the earplugs, which cost 85 cents to manufacture.
Today, over 140,000 veterans suffering from hearing loss or ringing in their ears – tinnitus – have filed claims against the company. 3M has steadfastly denied it designed a defective product. It also asserts the earplugs did cause any injury to users.
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