Thousands of military veterans are expected to submit claims against the manufacturing business 3M, declaring it intentionally offered defective earplugs. These grievances come after the Justice Department settled a suit with the company in July over allegations the company defrauded the federal government by selling earplugs with “dangerous design flaws”to the military for “more than a decade.”
3M consented to pay $9.1 million to the federal government, however confessed no liability. CBS News’ Dr. Jon LaPook consulted with servicemen who deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, where they remained in close distance to small arms, heavy weapons and rockets. Up until that 3M settlement, they believed their hearing loss was par for the course.
Joseph Junk and David Hendersen served in the U.S. armed force for three and 6 years respectively. Junk said he joined the Army as part of family custom and Hendersen felt a duty to his country after 9/11. They both relied on earplugs to protect them in training and battle.
“We were told these gadgets are gonna save our hearing and that’s what we did. We utilized them,”Hendersen said. So did Junk. “I imply, the basic expectation is that you can rely on your training and your equipment … Everyone was simply under the impression that these particular earplugs were doing their job,”he stated.
“We’ve simply been informed that, ‘This is the equipment you get and it’s the best out there. It’s gonna save your hearing,’ Junk stated. “In the future, we found out that it didn’t actually protect our hearing that much at all.”
A joint lawsuit submitted by the federal government and by a rival of 3M, the maker of the earplugs, declared 3M knew prior to selling the earplugs to the armed force that screening procedures and fitting instructions were unlawfully manipulated. It likewise declared they sold the plugs from 2003 to 2015 “without divulging the design defect.”
“It wasn’t an omission. It wasn’t something missed out on. It was deliberately lying to gain money and harming our service members,”Hendersen stated.
Last month, Junk and Hendersen filed civil problems against 3M, claiming the company “did not adequately caution of the problems or effectively caution how to wear the earplugs.”
“From what I remember, men would put them in and, like, they had bigger ear canals so it would go all the way in and sort of get stuck in there or you had men that would put them in and still be able to hear everything,”Hendersen recalled. “But you have a lot of other things to stress over you understand, specific to safety or your … physical wellness.”
With numerous other things to worry about in terms of their security, hearing was close to the bottom of the list. They stated they both suffer from partial hearing loss and a condition referred to as tinnitus, which is described as a high-pitched hissing noise. Junk said the second he stops hearing sounds, when it’s peaceful, is when the ringing gets loudest.
“What is peaceful? What’s peace? I know for me personally, I don’t have it. All I hear is ringing if there’s no sound around me,”he stated. “If I do not have noise around me, it’s frustrating. It is torture.”
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, tinnitus is the most common impairment experienced by veterans with over 2.7 million getting compensation for it.
Dr. Thomas Roland of NYU Langone Health discussed that sound enters not just through the ear canal however also through something know as bone conduction.
“Our military personnel are exposed to severe levels of noise,”Roland stated. “When sound strikes the bone of our skull, the bone moves with the sound … Even if you entirely obstruct the ear, sound above a certain level can still get to the inner ear through bone conduction, still be really damaging.”
He stated that any earplug– even perfectly designed ones– can not prevent bone conduction of loud sound through the skull to the inner ear.
Andrew Duffy represents over two dozen veterans who utilized these earplugs.
“These earplugs have a harmful design flaw,”Duffy said. “The goal is to send out a message to 3M and other business that … you can not defraud the United States of America and have the repercussions be the health and wellness of our military members.”
But no settlement is going to help bring their hearing back or eliminate the ringing in the ears.
“You can’t put a cost on that. You can’t put a price on one of your senses, on your enjoyment of life, of possibly tranquil solitude, or how I used to enjoy music. I can’t– I can’t delight in music like I used to,”Junk stated.
Hendersen is still angry.
“Still desiring, you know, wishing to, raise awareness to our fellow service members to get the– to get the word out. Go get checked. Go to the physician. But then, you understand, likewise desiring 3M to own up to it, to describe it more. We can perhaps start with an apology,”he said.
Those earplugs have actually been discontinued and the Department of Justice did not talk about which earplugs the military currently utilizes. 3M said it has “a long history of partnering with the U.S. military”and continues to make items to protect our troops. It rejects the earplugs were defectively developed.
Edward Lott, Ph.D., M.B.A.
President and Managing Partner
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