In combat, soldiers are faced with two contradictory problems. First, they are inundated with harmful noises that can distract them from the task at hand. Second, they must be able to hear and respond to battlefield commands. 

Combat earplugs were designed to kill two birds with one stone. A soldier could insert one end to block sounds and the other end to amplify them. When the invention was first presented, it seemed like a great solution. It worked well for some service members for a time. 

Unfortunately, thousands of veterans and military service members were not so lucky. Because of the use of defective combat earplugs, these men and women experienced tinnitus and/or hearing loss. 

If you are among this number, you may be entitled to compensation. Keep reading to learn more about defective combat earplugs lawsuits. 

A Brief Overview of Defective Combat Earplugs Lawsuits

Between 2003 and 2015, active service members were issued 3M Combat Arm earplugs. Many suffered hearing loss or tinnitus in spite of the protection that these earplugs should have offered. 

In 2019, it was announced that the manufacturer paid a $9.1 million settlement. This payment was in response to a whistleblower claiming the company was aware of the defect prior to selling the earplugs to the military.

Since then, more than 200,000 lawsuits have been filed against the 3M Company and its subsidiary, Aearo Technologies. The lawsuits allege that 3M knowingly committed fraud by selling defective earplugs to the U.S. military. It is also claimed that 3M falsified its earplug test results to cover up the problem. 3M has yet to admit to any wrongdoing.

Further investigation of the 3M earplugs has led to discoveries about the device’s defects. According to lawsuits, the stem of the earplug was too short and thus unable to provide proper protection. 

It’s alleged that Aearo Technologies knew of this deficiency before it obtained a contract with the military.

The Effects of Hearing Loss and Tinnitus

Hearing loss can have devastating consequences for veterans and active service members. Not only does it affect the quality of life for these men and women, but it also impacts their ability to work effectively. 

They may even experience the following symptoms:

  • Inability to hear someone speaking from 3 feet away
  • Ringing or buzzing in the ear
  • Difficulty understanding what another person is saying

Treatment and medication for tinnitus can become expensive quickly. The office visits alone can cost hundreds of dollars. And a monthly prescription for anti-anxiety medications (commonly issued to tinnitus sufferers) can cost upwards of $300 a month. 

For hearing loss, a range of treatments could be attempted. If a veteran requires a cochlear implant, the final cost could be tens of thousands of dollars. 

Fortunately, these victims are eligible for VA benefits. These benefits do not impact a person’s ability to file a lawsuit against 3M or Aearo Technologies. And if the lawsuit is won, the benefits will remain unaffected. 

The Average Settlement Payout for Defective Product Lawsuits

Of course, every case is different and no payout will be exactly the same. Still, it can help to learn about the average payout if you are considering a lawsuit and want to know what to expect.

The average settlement for similar product liability cases is between $5,000 and $250,000. 

The exact amount will depend on several factors, including:

  • The severity of your injuries
  • The degree to which your injuries have affected your life
  • How quickly you were diagnosed after discharge

Of course, to qualify for a settlement, you must be a veteran or an active service member of the U.S. military. You must also have used 3M earplugs in combat.

If you believe that you may be entitled to compensation, get in touch with a product liability attorney. The sooner you start to build your case, the better.