3M Earplugs Lawsuit: A Comprehensive Guide (2024)

Gene Glarosh


Reviewed By Adam Ramirez, J.D.


Read in 6 mins

Due to negligent testing methods utilized by 3M, a manufacturer of various goods, hundreds of thousands of US military members became victims of defective earplugs manufactured by the company. Between the years of 2008 and 2018, the US military had a contract with 3M which supplied US military members with the defective earplugs resulting in tinnitus and hearing loss.

Public awareness of 3M’s negligence began in 2016 when Moldex-Metric, Inc. filed a whistleblower complaint against 3M. This resulted in the first settlement being paid to the US government which amounted to $9.1 million dollars in 2018, however, 3M still failed to admit liability.

Since 2018, over 140,000 thousand military members who used the iconic yellow and dark green military-issued earplugs over the course of fifteen years filed lawsuits of their own. In 2021, the first bellwether trials began in which military members were able to secure over $300 billion in compensation.

In 2023, the total number of settled bellwether clams reached 400,000. The new round of settlements amounted to $6 billion. These trials are ongoing and as time goes on, the level of liability placed on 3M has only increased. In 2022, the presiding judge ruled that sole liability belonged to 3M, and since the initial 2018 settlement, several incriminating emails were uncovered in which 3M officials bragged about making a nearly 800% profit on the defective earplugs.

3M Earplugs Lawsuit Updates

  1. 3M Earplug Additional Settlement Payments
  2. Progress Update on 3M Earplug Settlement Payments

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What is the 3M Earplugs Lawsuit?

In the span of fifteen years, between 2003 and 2018, the US military issued defective earplugs that led to severe consequences for hundreds of thousands of military members. The negligence in testing methods employed by 3M (the supplier of the defective earplugs) resulted in a widespread issue of tinnitus and hearing loss among the servicemen and women who relied on the company's products for ear protection.

Which 3M earplugs are defective?

The genesis of the 3M earplugs lawsuit can be traced back to the early 2000s when the US military sought reliable hearing protection for its servicemen and women. In 2003, the military entered into a contract with Aearo Technologies (which was acquired by 3M in 2008), a trusted manufacturer, to supply earplugs designed to mitigate the harmful effects of loud noises in combat and training environments. These dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2) were intended to provide versatility by offering two different levels of protection: one for blocking all noise and another for allowing low-level sounds like speech while still protecting against hazardous noise levels.

However, it later emerged that the design and efficacy of these earplugs were compromised. Despite being marketed as effective hearing protection, the earplugs had inherent flaws that rendered them ineffective in real-world scenarios. The failure of these earplugs to provide adequate protection resulted in thousands of military personnel suffering from hearing-related injuries, including tinnitus and permanent hearing loss.

The 3M earplugs lawsuit revolves around several alleged design flaws that compromised the effectiveness of the CAEv2 earplugs:

  • Short Length: One of the primary design flaws of the CAEv2 earplugs was their short length, which made them difficult to properly insert into the ear canal. This inadequate fit allowed harmful noise to bypass the earplugs, exposing users to the risk of hearing damage.
  • Lack of Seal: Despite being labeled as dual-ended earplugs with distinct levels of protection, the CAEv2 earplugs were unable to form a tight seal in the ear canal. This failure to create a secure seal meant that high-intensity noise could still penetrate the earplugs, negating their protective capabilities.
  • Reusability Issues: The design of the CAEv2 earplugs made them prone to loosening or dislodging from the ear canal during movement, especially in dynamic environments like combat zones. This inherent instability compromised the earplugs' ability to consistently protect against hazardous noise levels.
  • Inadequate Testing: Perhaps the most egregious flaw associated with the 3M earplugs lawsuit was the alleged failure of 3M to conduct adequate testing to ensure the efficacy of their product. Despite being aware of the design limitations, 3M purportedly misrepresented the safety and effectiveness of the CAEv2 earplugs, putting military personnel at risk.

These alleged design flaws formed the basis of the lawsuits filed against 3M by thousands of military members who suffered hearing-related injuries due to the defective earplugs. The legal battle underscored the importance of rigorous testing and transparency in the manufacturing and marketing of products, especially those designed to safeguard the health and well-being of individuals in high-risk environments.

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3M Earplugs Lawsuit Origin

The public first became aware of 3M's negligence in 2016 when Moldex-Metric, Inc. filed a whistleblower complaint against the company. In response, the US government received its initial settlement of $9.1 million from 3M in 2018. Despite this payment, 3M did not admit liability, leaving the door open for further legal actions.

Subsequently, an alarming number of military members, exceeding 140,000, who had used the iconic yellow and dark green military-issued earplugs, filed their own lawsuits against 3M since 2018. The gravity of the situation became more evident in 2021 when the first bellwether trials took place, resulting in military members being awarded over $300 billion in compensation.

As the legal proceedings continued into 2023, the total number of settled bellwether claims reached a staggering 400,000, prompting a new round of settlements amounting to $6 billion. The ongoing trials have shed light on the extent of the damage caused by 3M's defective earplugs, with the number of affected military members continuously rising. The presiding judge in 2022 ruled that sole liability for the earplug debacle rested on 3M, marking a significant turning point in the legal battle. As information continues to develop, ConsumerShield will provide updates for our readers.

3M Lawsuit: Hearing Loss (2024)

The 3M Earplugs Lawsuit highlights the negative health impacts on military personnel. Due to this reason, nobody can ignore the importance of this lawsuit.

These earplugs were supposed to protect the hearing of the users in case of high-decibel bombing and shooting. Owing to the intentional negligence and criminal conduct of the 3M company, it impacts the military personnel negatively.

Following are the consequences that hundreds of military personnel had to go through because of using defective and poor-quality earplugs.

Hearing Loss

The supply of poor-quality earplugs to the military leads to hearing loss. It is a common auditory problem prevailing among hundreds of military personnel.

The faulty earplugs did not provide sufficient protection from the combat bombings, on-field shootings, and high-decibel training sessions, which developed the chances of damaged hearing for the users.

Also, the impaired hearing caused further complications for them in terms of real-time combat and concentrating on the target as well. There is no doubt that hearing loss greatly puts their life at risk at the same time.


Tinnitus is also prevailing among some users. In this situation, a person starts to hear buzzing and peculiar sounds that don't exist around them. Due to this reason, they cannot focus on their tasks at hand.

There are more chances of distractions which can be highly fatal for them at the same time. In the case of military combat and battles, this injury can completely divert the soldiers from their tasks and lead them to lose their lives as well.

Quality of Life Implications

The auditory injuries caused by these faulty earplugs can also raise challenges in the quality of life for the victims.

They can get exposed to an irreversible emotional toll for the whole of their life. Sudden shock and trauma can leave these victims vulnerable to other emotional complications in the long run.

Therefore, such trauma can also damage the quality of life for these victims as they might be completely unable to control and manage at all.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • The origin of the 3M earplugs lawsuit includes the whistleblower False Claim Actions lawsuit against a branch of this company called Aero Technologies. After the hearings, the company compensated the US military for about $9.1M on the whole.

  • The defective design of the earl=plugs lacks a proper hearing seal and components that prove to be effective for the hearing protection of the users. Due to this faulty design, the users were unable to keep themselves from high-decibel training and combat.

  • Yes, there are many similar lawsuits against the 3M and other firms that have tampered with their products and services, creating an emotional toll on the victims. Also, they caused the worst health concerns for them at the same time.

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