MOBILE, A.L.– Lawsuits are being filed across the country aimed at a defective product that was issued to thousands of members of the military.
Earplugs are a basic item issued to service members who are sometimes in very loud environments. But the ones bought by the defense department from the 3M company didn’t work.
We take you to Mobile, Alabama and the investigation of how that defective product led to serious problems for thousands of service members, and what’s being done to hold the company accountable.
This is the environment of the modern military. Much of it is loud. So loud in fact that everyone is issued earplugs to protect their hearing. Kevin McAnally spent more than two decades in the army working on the CH-47 Chinook helicopter.
He shares, “Engines running on a flight line where you might have, say a half a dozen to a dozen aircraft turning up and you’re out walking around either doing maintenance or checking on maintenance, so you’re exposed to a lot of noise.”
But now, because of earplugs the U.S. Government alleges were defective, he’s suffering from hearing loss.
The veteran adds, “I can tell by the loudness of the TV now, the loudness of the radio.”
But it’s not just loss of hearing. The other big thing is the constant ringing in the ears too.
And he’s not alone. Thousands of other service members who were issued these earplugs made by 3M company between 2003 and 2015, may also have significant hearing loss. That hearing loss is evident in audiograms like this one Beltone’s David Adams is administering.
Service members are required to get these audiograms, responding to a series of beeps at different Megahertz, when entering and exiting the service. Even those who didn’t go into a combat zone are subject to high noise levels like former military policeman Brandon Wright.
Wright shares, “A lot of stress tests, weapons going off, sirens, concussion grenades going off.”
Now both men are suing 3M over their hearing loss, they claim was caused by these earplugs.
For many years the military used simple foam earplugs, which knocked down noise by 30 to 40 decibels. They were also made by 3M. But these earplugs began being issued in 2003.
But the Department of Justice, which recently reached a $9-million settlement with 3M, says 3M’s own testing showed they just didn’t work.
It actually tested at negative 2 NRR. That’s ‘noise reduction rating’. What that means is their own tests showed this side amplified noise.
But attorney Ed Rowan says the company sold them to the military anyway, knowing they were defective. And that, says Rowan who is also a marine, makes it personal.
He explains, “They took advantage of veterans, and that riles me up.”
One important note, this is not a class-action lawsuit. These are all individual cases being brought before a federal judge in Pensacola, similar to the way the BP lawsuits were handled in New Orleans.
We contacted 3M for a response to the lawsuits.
The company says, “We deny this product was defectively designed and will vigorously defend ourselves against such allegations.”
Starting tomorrow, KX News will be featuring North Dakota veterans’ stories every night through the week of Veterans’ Day. Tune in Monday night at 10, to hear the first Veteran’s Voice.