Hundreds Of 3M Defective Earplug Documents Unsealed
Depositions which were recently unsealed confirm that 3M knew its Combat Arms earplugs were defective yet did not report this information to the military. The documents say that some employees of 3M didn’t think that soldiers “needed to know how to adjust” their earplugs for a proper fit.
Hundreds of documents were made public by a federal judge in April. The documents include depositions, memos, emails and receipts related to the Department of Defense’s purchase of 3M earplugs from 2003 to 2015.
3M’s Elliot Berger, a division scientist in the company’s Personal Safety Division, acknowledged an internal memo in the depositions. The memo said “the existing product has problems unless the user instructions are revised.”
3M’s Timothy McNamara, the company’s sales manager for the United States Midwest, was asked during a deposition if soldiers were entitled to know that the company tested the earplugs in a different way that soldiers were instructed to use them. He answered, “I don’t believe so.”
McNamara said he never told service members how to use the earplugs properly despite frequently visiting military bases. Plaintiffs in lawsuits say 3M knew that their testing showed the earplugs were too short for a proper fit in the ear canal and could loosen imperceptibly.
Documents show that the earplugs accounted for 20% of 3M’s operating income. The earplugs cost 85 cents to make per earplug and were sold for $7.63 per earplug.
3M believes it is immune from liability since it was acting as a government contractor, and denies withholding information from the government.
“As noted in 3M’s briefs, the company worked in close coordination with the U.S. military on the CAEv2 product and informed the military that the company’s testing had shown that the military’s decision to shorten the CAEv2 created potential fitting issues…The U.S. military was aware of those issues and the need to train users of the product to fold back the flanges on the opposite end, as needed, to get a good fit,” a 3M spokesman said in an email statement.
The defective earplugs are known as the Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 (CAEv2). These earplugs featured a dual-end design with a black end and a yellow end. The user could perceive quiet sounds when the yellow end was inserted into the ear. Flipping the earplugs around would provide soldiers with increased hearing protection from noise such as gunshots and explosions. Over one million soldiers may have used these earplugs.