The Facts About 3M Earplug Lawsuits

little girl whispering into military dad's ear

If you are a veteran who experienced hearing loss or tinnitus connected to your service, you might have grounds for an earplug lawsuit. The manufacturer 3M is charged with selling the United States military defective earplugs. The allegation is that the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 is too short to block noise effectively and is made of material that is ineffective for the promised noise reduction.

Since 2018, 3M has been battling lawsuits brought by service members. The company contends the earplugs provided effective protection when used properly and did not cause the hearing damage the plaintiffs have experienced. So far, 3M has lost cases brought by 12 service members and has prevailed against six.

What Symptoms Might I Experience?

Veterans who used these 3M earplugs are reporting two different types of hearing damage: tinnitus and hearing loss. While everyone is different, you should have your hearing checked if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms.

Hearing Loss

  • Trouble understanding speech
  • Muffling of sound overall
  • Frequently asking others to repeat themselves
  • Turning up the TV or radio volume
  • Difficulty hearing noises such as doorbells or alarm clocks
  • Speaking more loudly than you used to


Tinnitus is persistently hearing sounds that aren’t really there. These sounds could be loud or subtle and may take many forms including:

  • Ringing
  • Buzzing
  • Crackling
  • Clicking
  • Humming

How Do I Know if I Used the Affected Earplugs?

The 3M earplug lawsuit focuses on one specific model: the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplug Version 2. These earplugs are yellow at one end and black at the other and made in a sort of diamond shape. They were issued both for training and in active combat zones between 2003 and 2015. If you served in any branch of the military during that time and were exposed to loud noises that resulted in hearing loss or tinnitus, you may be eligible to file a veteran hearing loss lawsuit.

Is the Defendant the U.S. Government or Military?

No. The lawsuits are against 3M, the manufacturer of the allegedly defective earplugs. No part of the U.S. government is named as a defendant. According to the allegations, 3M knew from their own testing that the earplugs were insufficient, but they continued to sell them to the military anyway.

Will I Lose My Military Benefits?

Filing a lawsuit will not affect your military benefits. Should you prevail, regular benefits such as disability benefits are not affected, since they are not based on financial need or income level. It is possible that extra needs-based benefits may be impacted by your settlement. Your attorney will walk you through what to expect.

Is This a Class Action Suit?

The 3M earplug lawsuit has consolidated individual claims into a mass tort MDL (multi-district litigation). This is slightly different than a class action suit. In a class-action suit, a handful of plaintiffs are selected to represent everyone who is seeking damages. In a mass tort MDL, the individual lawsuits are joined together under a single federal judge and a group of attorneys known as the plaintiffs’ steering committee, or PSC.

Like class action suits, mass tort MDLs may be settled for the entire group. Unlike a class action suit, though, you can wait to hear the terms of the settlement before deciding whether to participate. If you choose not to settle, or if the case as a whole does not come to a settlement, you can still pursue an individual lawsuit. You and your attorney can use all of the evidence that came to light during the MDL discovery process.

What Sort of Compensation Might I Receive?

As a defective product lawsuit, your case may be eligible for various types of compensation. If the case is settled and you choose to participate in the settlement, you will receive a predetermined amount of money.

Otherwise, exactly what types of compensation you receive, along with the specific dollar amounts, will depend on your circumstances. Possible types of compensation in these cases include:

  • Medical bills, including those already incurred and those you are likely to face in the future
  • Lost income if your hearing loss or tinnitus affects your ability to work
  • Loss of future earnings if your inability to work is expected to last long-term
  • Pain and suffering
  • Emotional distress
  • Punitive damages, which are designed to punish the manufacturer for its decisions

It can be tough to figure out exactly what amount of compensation is fair. That’s why you need an attorney who is experienced in this type of lawsuit and is prepared to fight for every dollar you deserve.

What Documentation Do I Need?

Documentation is essential to proving your case. In fact, in May 2022, the federal judge overseeing the MDL dismissed more than 20,000 claims due to the plaintiffs’ failure to produce documentation. Before getting started, make sure you have copies of your:

  • DD-214
  • VA records
  • Military records

How Can I Get Started?

It’s never easy to prove a defective product claim. Manufacturers are represented by powerful, highly skilled attorneys who are determined to reduce damages as much as possible. This means that you will need an equally skilled lawyer with a strong knowledge of this type of case to fight for you. Your attorney will walk you through each stage of the process, from presenting your documentation to helping you decide whether to take a settlement offer.

It all starts with evaluating your claim to determine whether a lawsuit is the right path for you. Gather your documents and submit them, along with your claim, for a free case evaluation. Remember, you do not need to prove that you were issued the allegedly defective earplugs, as that is all part of the discovery process. At this point, you simply need to prove your military service and your hearing loss or tinnitus diagnosis.

At Cooney & Conway, we have the experience and compassion to guide you through the process of receiving compensation for your service-related hearing damage. To get started, fill out our free case evaluation today.