In this most recent combat earplug lawsuit, Steven Mayo says that during his two tours in Iraq and two tours in Afghanistan he was “continuously exposed to loud noises and explosions". Mayo joined the U.S. Navy in 2003 and worked in construction, reaching the rank of builders’ second class. According to court documents, he was honorably discharged in 2014.
Like hundreds of other 3M combat earplugs lawsuits, Mayo claims he is suffering from tinnitus, a constant ringing in the ears, and permanent hearing loss because the ear plugs didn’t properly function. Other complaints say the earplug seal wasn’t tight enough, thereby not blocking dangerous levels of sound. Wearers complained of discomfort, pain, loss of balance and ringing in the ears as well as tinnitus.
In the lawsuit, 3M says its Combat Arms earplugs could be worn in an open or unblocked position with the yellow end inserted which would reduce loud sounds like gunfire and explosions yet allow servicemen to hear quieter sounds such as commands and approaching enemy combatants. They could also be worn in a closed or blocked position with the green end, which would reduce all sounds and operate as normal earplugs. It didn’t include a "dangerous design defect" that caused them to loosen in wearers' ears – no matter how they were worn.
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“It is thus not surprising that hearing damage is now the largest ongoing medical cost the military incurs each year," the lawsuit says. "The VA thus spends more than $1 billion per year to treat hearing damage suffered by more than 800,000 servicemen."