There are many types of earplugs, ranging from consumer-grade earplugs designed to reduce the volume of loud noises like rock concerts and noisy neighbors to industrial-grade earplugs that are designed to protect users’ ears and hearing. The U.S. military purchased the latter type of earplugs to protect servicemembers during training exercises and live combat, but it was later revealed that they are defective.
The earplugs are designed to be worn two different ways. The first way provides protection while still allowing users to hear voice commands from others, while the second way provides greater protection without allowing users to hear others speak. Unfortunately, the more protective end of the earplugs is defective, which meant that users were exposed to incredibly loud and damaging sounds while in the field.
The affected earplugs are called 3M Combat Arms, and countless military servicemembers were issued them in recent years. To make matters worse, 3M was aware of the issues related to the earplugs, but continue to sell them to the U.S. government. Servicemembers who wore the earplugs during training and live combat are now experiencing tinnitus and hearing loss as a result of the loud noises they were exposed to without adequate protection.