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3M Earplugs

Are you a current or former military service member suffering from partial to full hearing loss or tinnitus and recall using dual-ended ear plugs during training or combat? You may have spoken to your friends and others who were part of your battalion about the “yellow and olive green” earplug, which many now believe was responsible for their injuries.

The earplugs under investigation are the Combat Arms Earplugs, Version 2 (CAEv2), which were manufactured by international conglomerate 3M. Last year, the Minnesota-based company agreed to pay the U.S. government $9.1 million for failing to disclose design errors in the earplugs that reduced their effectiveness, injuring thousands of men and women in the line of duty.

The attorneys at Searcy Denney are currently giving free case reviews to veterans who were diagnosed with hearing loss or tinnitus after using the government issued earplugs. If you or someone you love was affected by this dangerous product, you are encouraged to contact our firm today for a private, complimentary legal consultation. Compensation for your injuries is important, as well as our collective responsibility to stop those who willingly risk the safety of our armed forces in the name of making a profit.


Contact the legal team at Searcy Denney by calling (855) 358-7404 today. Legal consultations are completely confidential, and neither the military nor the U.S. government will be made aware of your initial case review. Free Consultation


A company called Aearo Technologies, which was later acquired by 3M, won a contract with the U.S. government with claims that they invented a superior product known as a “selective attenuation earplug.” In other words, these earplugs were dual-ended and had a separate function for each side. The yellow side or “open end” allowed low level sounds such as voice commands to penetrate the ear, while the dark, olive green side or “closed end” offered protection against high and low level noise.

The goal was to provide hearing protection that would allow for team communication and low frequency hearing on one side, while readily providing greater protection during gunfire and other significant noise related to combat and training on the other.


Unfortunately, the earplugs were defectively designed. During testing procedures, they were discovered to be too short to fit properly inside the ear canal and fully seal it against damaging noise. Because of this, the earplugs fit loosely. From an outside appearance, it was nearly impossible to tell that the earplug was not adequately sealing the ear canal, allowing explosive noise to enter and injure U.S. soldiers.

Rather than correcting this design mistake, 3M and Aearo Technologies personnel decided to change the fitting procedure in order to make the earplugs fit fully and deeply into the test subject’s ear. To do this, the Aearo staff person folded back the yellow flanges on the open end of the earplug, essentially elongating the product so that it would effectively seal the ear from noise. This modification was not communicated to soldiers using the product in training or combat.


Countless men and women in the armed forces who were issued 3M’s combat earplugs have reported severe hearing injuries – primarily partial to full hearing loss as well as tinnitus. 3M’s faulty earplugs are believed to be linked to these injuries.


Soldiers in combat (and training) are routinely exposed to high decibel levels. Any noise above 85 dB can cause hearing loss and effective ear protection is critical for many service members to perform their jobs.

Noise from bomb explosions, missile launchers, shoulder-fired rockets and gunfire can cause significant damage to inner ear hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea. When these delicate parts become damaged, it interferes with the transmission of electrical signals to the brain and impairs hearing.


While hearing loss is detectable with a physician’s test, tinnitus does not have an exam for discovering the condition. Rather, a person may be diagnosed with the condition based on answering a series of questions by his or her treating physician.

Similar to what occurs with hearing loss, tinnitus is primarily caused when the delicate inner ear hair cells that respond to sound waves are damaged, bent or broken in any way. When they are injured, they may send “noise signals” to the brain when no sound is present.

Diagram credit: Mayo Clinic.

Symptoms of tinnitus include the sound of several types of noises in the ear:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Roaring
  • Clicking
  • Hissing
  • Humming

The aftermath of dealing with tinnitus or hearing loss is often devastating for many, even impacting mental and emotional health. It has been associated with anxiety, depression, and may even contribute to higher suicide rates in veterans of war. Some veterans have also experienced difficulty with civilian employment options, including being licensed as pilots due to their earplug-induced hearing deficits.

It is no surprise that the two most frequently reported injuries from the Veterans Association are tinnitus and hearing loss. Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control reports that military veterans who served in the Iraqi War after the September 11th attacks are 4x more likely to suffer from hearing impairment. 3M was signed as a defense contractor with the U.S. military and provided the defective earplugs to military service members between 2003 and 2015.

The defective 3M earplugs are believed to be linked to tinnitus and hearing loss in hundreds of thousands of US service men and women.


We have heard the stories of many honorable men and women who are now paying for the careless acts of 3M and Aearo Technologies, and we are here to help you. Any current or former service member who was active duty between the years of 2003 and 2015, used 3M’s earplugs, and was diagnosed by a doctor with tinnitus or hearing loss, is encouraged to contact the legal team at Searcy Denney by calling (855) 358-7404 today. Legal consultations are completely confidential, and neither the military nor the U.S. government will be made aware of your initial case review.



Military personnel across several branches who served tours in the Middle East during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom between the years of 2003 and 2015 may have been part of the affected population. It is estimated that one pair of 3M earplugs was given for each deployed soldier during this time, up to 2.2 million.

An estimated 1.5 million U.S. military service members used the earplugs and may be entitled to compensation for their injuries.

Below is a short list of military units who may have been impacted. Please note: this list is not complete. If you or a loved one was deployed with any of the following forces, you may have been injured by 3M’s defective earplugs:

  • The First Marine Expeditionary Force, with approximately 50,000 Marines.
  • The Army’s Third Infantry Division, a mechanized unit with 16,500 soldiers, dozens of Apache attack and Kiowa Warrior scout helicopters, and hundreds of M1A1 Abrams tanks and M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles.
  • The Army’s 101st Airborne Division, with a total of 19,000 personnel and about 280 helicopters. This unit was deployed via aircraft in both northern and southern Iraq.
  • The 82nd Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade and the 173rd Airborne Brigade. These units fought in central and northern Iraq.
  • The Army’s V Corps, based in Heidelberg, Germany. V Corps commander Lt. Gen. William Wallace was placed in charge of all Army units taking part in the invasion. V Corps personnel numbered some 35,000 and included engineering, military police, air defense, and helicopter attack units.

Absolutely not. The military had no idea the dual-ended ear plugs provided to the troops were defective and dangerous to your hearing. This lawsuit is against the private companies that manufactured and knowingly sold defective ear plugs for a healthy profit. In this case, it is Aearo Technologies and the major conglomerate 3M.


Many people who contact us often begin by explaining they are “not the suing type,” regardless of their background or whether they are military, civilian, men or women. You may have even seen dozens of advertisements, from Facebook to the news before reaching this page.

Filing a lawsuit will not cure your tinnitus or hearing loss. However, receiving financial compensation can help you and your family in several ways. From groundbreaking medical procedures and holistic medicine not available through Veterans’ Affairs to improve symptoms, or contributing towards your retirement savings, the upsides to seeking legal help can be plentiful.

You will have an opportunity to be compensated for your injuries as well as help hold the makers of the defective earplugs accountable for their negligent and careless actions, to prevent this from occurring again.

If you feel uncertain about filing a lawsuit now, there is no pressure or obligation to make a decision at this moment. We recommend speaking with one of our attorneys first, who will help you consider the best approach for you and your loved ones. Many people wait until after a legal consultation to decide if they want to pursue their case.


If you have been diagnosed with tinnitus or suffered hearing loss of any kind while serving in the military and used 3M’s dual-ended earplugs, your injury was more than a sacrifice for honorably serving your country. 3M allegedly knowingly sold the defective earplugs to the U.S. government for use by military serving in combat.

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