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div>The Minnesota located 3M company produced the Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs which were employed by military personnel from the years 2003 to 2015 during combat and training exercises to protect soldier hearing from gunfire and explosions. Hearing problems are the most common issues suffered by soldiers so ear defense is a major worry for U.S. soldiers. Based on tinnitus lawsuit , the 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms™ Earplugs were designed to offer two different amounts of protection. The dual-ended earplugs have a design that is very recognizable. As their name implies, they were made of of two outward facing earplugs, one green and one yellow.
While the yellow part was inserted into the ear, this was known as Open Fire mode. This mode was created to provide normal hearing for peak situational awareness. It could allow staff to communicate, accept commands and listen to other important sounds in the battlefield whilst still providing protection from peak level noises like gunfire and explosions. This could have been the desired mode in combat situations.
When the green end was inserted inside the ear, this was known as Closed Protection mode. Constant Protection was created to block all sounds more thoroughly in order to provide complete protection. According to 3M, this mode is for high level sustained noise situations such as those in tracked vehicles and air support. This mode might have additionally 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) that were designed for military usage and used widely by thousands of personnel deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq between 2003 to 2015. The CAEV2 was produced to allow for two separate protection modes, Weapons Fire mode and Constant Protection mode. The applicable setting is determined by which part of the plug is placed into the ear, yellow for Weapons Fire mode, green for Constant Protection mode. Weapons Fire mode is designed to allow for hearing speech and communicating yet maintaining protection against damaging noise levels from gunfire and explosions. The Constant Protection mode blocked all noise more completely which was useful for personnel operating in track vehicles, in air support or while regular training. Both settings were purported to block sounds up to a certain level yet in current legal action, the government has alleged that neither mode of the ear plug complied with the Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) which 3M alleged due to an unreported manufacturing error.
$9.1 million Settlement Between 3M and the U.S. Government
In July of 2018, the United States DOJ announced that 3M had agreed to pay $9.1 million to resolve allegations that the company knowingly sold the Combat Arms Earplugs v2 to the American military without admitting defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing defense device. The lawsuit was initially filed in 2016 under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act which allows private citizens to sue for the federal government when they think that a defendant has submitted incorrect claims for government funds. In this case, the whistleblower was granted $1,911,000 for their part in the lawsuit.
Per the DOJ press announcement, the settlement took care of allegations that 3M violated the False Claims Act by marketing or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. Specifically, the United States claimed that 3M, and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, Inc., knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the plugs could loosen slightly and therefore did not work well for certain people. It’s additionally claimed that this design defect was known to 3M but wasn’t disclosed to the Department of Defense.
Harm to Personnel
If the claims against 3M are correct, many personnel might have used error prone earplugs which didn’t protect them as the product was intended to. Based on the alleged design error, the earplugs could loosen while inside the ear unknown to the soldier allowing damaging sounds to make their way into the ear. Dangerous noise levels can have serious and permanent effects which include partial or total hearing loss, or ti