Have you lost your hearing or developed tinnitus—a ringing in your ears—after serving in the military?
If you served between 2003 and 2015, were issued two-sided black and yellow earplugs and have developed hearing loss or tinnitus, you may be eligible for financial compensation in a large lawsuit.
Here are the details: Military service members were issued 3M’s Combat Arms Earplugs from 2003 to 2015. One side of the earplugs would allow low-intensity sounds through, such as speaking, and the other side would muffle sound more. They were the only dual-sided earplugs issued by the military.
Unfortunately, they didn’t work.
“The earplugs didn’t maintain a tight seal and allowed dangerously loud sounds to slip through without the wearer knowing,” according to the Military Times.
Signs of injury from these defective earplugs include hearing loss, tinnitus, and even loss of balance.
“To date, thousands of veterans have filed lawsuits against 3M claiming the earplugs were defective and led to their noise-induced hearing loss and/or tinnitus,” according to a legal article on the lawsuit.
If you’ve suffered hearing loss or developed tinnitus after military service, you’re not alone.
“Tinnitus is the number-one disability among veterans and affects at least 1 in 10 American adults,” according to the Veterans Administration.
If you’re not sure if you have tinnitus, here are some signs: It can sound like ringing, buzzing, a high-pitched whistle, or hissing. Another sign of hearing damage is when you have difficulty understanding speech, even if you score normally on a hearing test. This is called auditory processing disorder and is often linked to blast exposure, according to the VA.
As of 2014, the VA was paying upwards of $1.5 billion every year to nearly two million veterans suffering from hearing loss and tinnitus, according to the American Tinnitus Association. The long-term effects of tinnitus can be debilitating, according to the ATA.
“People with tinnitus often experience distress, depression, anxiety, frequent mood swings, sleep disturbances, irritability or frustration, poor concentration [and] pain,” the ATA writes.
In a 2014 survey of 1,100 people, the ATA found that only 38% of people with tinnitus can function normally. The remaining 62% said that tinnitus disturbs their sleep and isolates them socially. It also wears on friends, family members and coworkers when a tinnitus sufferer has difficulty socializing, communicating, or concentrating.
The economic impact of tinnitus can cost up to $30,000 per person every year. Two percent of those surveyed by the ATA were unable to work at all.
This is why Foley & Small is representing veterans and their families to recover compensation for the loss of hearing and related problems from these defective earplugs.
This lawsuit may be overdue as, according to the Military Times, there is some evidence in a 2016 lawsuit against 3M that there were employees who knew about the earplug defects as early as 2000. However, the Military Times says, the company falsified certification on its testing so the government contract would be approved, which earned 3M about $9 million in 2006 alone.
The earplugs continued to be sold until 2015, when 3M discontinued the product, but it didn’t recall the earplugs. This means there could be defective earplugs still being used by soldiers and others today.
Foley & Small, an Indiana-based law firm, wants to hear from you if you’re a veteran with ongoing auditory symptoms after serving in combat zones. Contact the firm online or call 800-276-2525 to learn how you can get your compensation.
-Douglas D. Small
-Edmond W. Foley
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