BY: Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller | IN: Personal Injury
Hundreds of thousands of U.S. military servicemen and women were put at risk for hearing loss and impairment due to defective earplugs. Those who sustained such injuries are seeking compensation for their injuries in product liability lawsuits across the country.
The earplugs – Duel-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs – were initially manufactured by Aearo Technologies, a company later acquired by Minnesota-based conglomerate 3M Corporation in 2008. Known by their distinctive yellow and olive colors (which sometimes appear as yellow and black) and commonly referred to as “Christmas trees,” the earplugs had a multi-functional purpose: they could be used to block out all noise and conversation, or they could be turned around to provide military service people the ability to hear conversations and orders while simultaneously protecting eardrums from sudden gunfire and explosions.
Due to their defective design, however, the size of combat earplugs was too short to be properly inserted into the ears. As a result, the earplugs may not remain tight and can loosen. Without noticing, a user could sustain hearing loss, hearing impairment, or tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
3M sold the Duel Ended Combat Arms Earplugs exclusively to the U.S. military, which issued them to hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women between 2003 and 2015, although use of the earplugs continued after 2015. It is believed the earplugs were used during training and in combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The loss of hearing caused by the defective earplugs can include complete deafness or partial impairment, as well as sensitivity to sound. A person’s hearing may fade away gradually as the condition worsens, or one may find it increasingly difficult to hear others clearly and may be forced to ask others to speak up.
Tinnitus is characterized as intermittent or continuous ringing in the ears; it can vary in volume and include hissing, clicking, buzzing, roaring, whistling, or other constant sounds. The most common disability among military veterans is tinnitus due to their exposure to damaging levels of gunfire, aircraft artillery, machinery, and explosions. Many vets afflicted with tinnitus find it can cause life-altering consequences such as difficulty concentrating and sleeping. Unfortunately, tinnitus is permanent for our veterans in the vast majority of cases.
If you served in any branch of the U.S. military at any time between 2003 and 2015, were issued and used Duel Ended Combat Arms Earplugs during your training or deployment, and suffered loss of hearing, hearing damage, or tinnitus during your service or at the time of discharge, you may be entitled to compensation for your injuries.
The attorneys in Sommers Schwartz’s Personal Injury Litigation Group are waiting to discuss your situation with you. Please contact us today!
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Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller focuses her practice on medical malpractice, automobile negligence, and general negligence litigation on behalf injured plaintiffs.