What Are Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs?

The 3M Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs were designed to protect the hearing of the wearer using two primary functions; when inserted one way the wearer would be able to hear sounds at reasonable volumes, such as speech, and when inserted in the opposite direction the wearer would get better noise protection from sounds such as gunfire or explosions. While this design seemed promising, it was found that the earplugs did not reach deep enough into the ear due to the stem being too short. The flaw causes the earplugs to come loose and allow destructive sounds such as gunfire, explosions, and machinery to enter the ear canal, potentially damaging the wearer’s hearing. Claims of hearing damage and tinnitus have increased significantly due to this design defect.

3M Earplugs Linked to Hearing Damage

U.S. military personnel who were issued the Dual-Ended Combat Arms between 2003 and 2015 may have experienced hearing damage due to the defective design of the 3M earplugs.

3M Earplugs Risk

U.S. military personnel who were issued the Dual-Ended Combat Arms between 2003 and 2015 may have experienced hearing damage due to the defective design of the 3M earplugs. Troops were sent into Iraq and Afghanistan without proper ear protection due to 3M’s defective earplug design.

3M Earplugs Side Effects

Hearing Loss
  • The ability to hear correctly will gradually fade away
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Irregular or continuous sounds in the ears (buzzing, ringing, hissing)
  • Caused by exposure to damaging levels of sound

3M Earplugs Lawsuit

On July 26, 2018, the Department of Justice announced that the 3M company would pay $9.1 million due to allegations of selling defective military earplugs to the U.S. Military. The 3M military earplugs lawsuit accuses the company of selling defective earplugs and failing to warn the military of the potential design defects that could lead to tinnitus and hearing loss.

The allegations connected to the settlement also include Aearo Technologies Inc, who was acquired by 3M in 2008. Both 3M and Aero Technologies were accused of knowing that the 3M earplugs were too short to be fully inserted into the ear and provide insufficient protection for users. Although 3M agreed to pay $9.1 million to the US Government to resolve these matters, the company has admitted no wrongdoing and accepted no liability.

Many pending defective 3M earplug lawsuits filed by U.S. Military veterans have been moved to a multi-district litigation (MDL) in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Florida, despite some cases originally requesting to be moved to the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the home state of 3M Company’s headquarters. The transferred lawsuits involve 3M’s Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs that were used by U.S. troops from 2003-2015. These qualified cases will be seen by the Honorable Federal Judge Casey Rodgers, who is a U.S. veteran and well qualified to preside over a large products liability multi-district litigation. On July 27, 2020, Judge Rodgers denied 3M’s claim for using government contractors’ defense, in which protects companies from liability for defective products designed and produced for the federal government.

3M earplugs

OCTOBER 7, 2015

A water company and three residents filed a class-action lawsuit claiming that 3M contaminated the Tennessee river with cancer-causing chemicals called PFOA and PFOS.

May 2016

Moldex-Metric, Inc files a lawsuit against 3M Company claiming that the company sold the U.S. government Combat Arms Earplugs even though they knew the product wouldn’t provide safe ear protection.

February 20, 2018

3M payed $850 million to settle a lawsuit claiming that a chemical produced by 3M, called PFCS, contaminated drinking water and natural resources in some areas of Minnesota.

June 20, 2018

The state of New York sued 3M Co. Seeking more than $38 million plus punitive damages. The lawsuit claimed that the chemicals used in 3M’s firefighting foam caused “extensive contamination” in the environment and resulted in damage to fish, water, soil, and civilians near the contaminated areas.

July 26, 2018

3M Company pays $9.1 million to settle claims that they knowingly sold defective earplugs to the U.S. Military and violated the False Claims Act.

December 19, 2018

3M was sued by Wolverine World Wide Inc., claiming that the Scotchgard chemical sold by 3M is harmful to the environment and 3M knew of the health risks but continued to sell the chemical to Wolverine.

April 2019

640 3M earplug lawsuits are sent to a U.S. district court in Pensacola, Florida. The cases are part of a multidistrict litigation (MDL) and U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers of the Northern District of Florida is chosen to preside over the cases.

July 27, 2020

U.S. District Judge M. Casey Rodgers denied 3M’s government contractors defense, allowing 3M earplug lawsuits to proceed.

January 2021

Four bellwether trial groups were selected by the court and include groups of six cases, the first of which will begin in April 2021.


WebMD. “Hearing Loss”, WebMD. Accessed January 2nd, 2019..

Military.com. “Tinnitus is Number One Disability For Veterans”, Militray.com. Accessed January 2nd, 2019..

Mayo Clinic. “Tinnitus”, Mayo Clinic. Accessed January 2nd, 2019..

WILL MORRIS. “Contractor settles for $9.1 million after providing defective earplugs for servicemembers”, STARS AND STRIPES. Accessed January 2nd, 2019..