How One Company Failed U.S. Army Veteran On Adequate Hearing Protection

11/04/2021 | Hearing Aids, Patient Resources

November is an important month, not just for hearing healthcare but also for our entire country – since we celebrate our heroes and their sacrifices on Veterans Day, November 11.

So, it seems fitting that an ongoing lawsuit against multinational company 3M has reached a verdict for a U.S. Army veteran who suffered a hearing loss and tinnitus as a result of inadequate earplugs supplied by 3M.

The profession of audiology was created to evaluate and treat hearing loss in the veteran population returning home following World War II.

Noise and toxin exposure while in the military can often reach hazardous levels. Most of what we know today about tinnitus, hearing loss, noise exposure, and ototoxins comes from the military and research funded through the Veterans Administration and the Department of Defense.

How Important Is Hearing Protection In Noisy Environments? 

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable. Wearing appropriate hearing protection is critical to preventing noise-induced hearing loss.

Appropriate hearing protection means that it fits properly and has the necessary amount of noise reduction for the specific environment or task. Hearing protection is critical for every single person that finds themselves in a noisy environment.

What Happens If You Don’t Protect Your Hearing?

Noise induced hearing losses can come on slowly or can happen suddenly. I have had patients that come in with a sudden, severe loss of hearing after being exposed to only one round of firearm use.

They had been exposed to hundreds of hours of noise from firearms, power tools, and farming equipment before without much hearing protection in the past, but this one day, all it took was one exposure to the muzzle blast of the 30.06 down at the range while testing reloads without earmuffs.

How Frequently Are Veterans Seen By Audiologists? 

Dr. Schmidt and I both work with veterans. We evaluate for compensation and pension claims based on noise and toxin exposures causing hearing loss and tinnitus.

We also have a contract with the Veterans Administration to provide treatment and management of hearing loss and tinnitus through the community care program.

We see approximately 120 veterans in our clinic each month, and 99% of them are seen because of noise induced hearing losses and/or tinnitus.

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How 3M Failed U.S. Army Veteran On Adequate Hearing Protection

This a False Claim Act Lawsuit against 3M for failing to disclose that they were aware that they had sold faulty military issued earplugs.

In July 2018, it was announced that 3M had agreed to pay 9.1 million dollars to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold earplugs to the military without disclosing defects.

3M did not claim any responsibility or admit in wrongdoing in the settlement of the claim. There have been multiple trials since that announcement; this case is about one of the most recent trials.

This article covers the most recent in a series of trials against 3M. Hearing protection is serious business for the Veterans Administration.

Hearing loss and tinnitus rank up there as some of the most cited disabilities among our veterans. The entire profession of audiology was born out of the military and the need to evaluate and manage hearing loss among our country’s veterans.

Noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable but only when hearing protection is used correctly for every exposure.

In the 3M trials, the issues surrounding the effective and correct use of the hearing protection and resulting failures have resulted in millions of dollars in awards for veterans because of resulting hearing loss and tinnitus.

The Future Of Hearing Protection

Hopefully, people will see that we as a society take hearing protection seriously. Hearing loss secondary to noise exposure is very costly and every effort should be made to improve access and use of appropriate hearing protection.

Manufacturers of hearing protection carry the burden of validating and ensuring best outcomes while at the same time providing good and accurate instruction for proper use of hearing protection.

I think this will push manufacturers to step up and do more for hearing protection moving forward which overall should have a positive impact.

Noisy Environments Requiring Hearing Protection

In Eastern Oregon, we have noisy lifestyles.

We are farmers, hunters, machinists, ranchers, musicians, and so much more. We have full and rich lifestyles that expose us to lots of noise.

There are as many different types of hearing protection as there are types of noisy environments. Matching the right hearing protection to the right noise can be critical to the comfort and success of the hearing protection.

If you’d like to find out more about custom hearing protection, we’d be more than happy to help. Just contact us here.

Help For Veterans

If you or a veteran you know is suffering with a hearing loss, please get your hearing tested.

If you think your hearing loss or tinnitus is a result of your time serving in the military, reach out to your local VA office and request a referral through the community care network to an audiologist near you.

It’s never too late to address hearing loss, and you could be entitled to free or low-cost hearing aids if the above sounds like you.

What Next?

We offer personalized consultations and support to find the right solution for the individual and their listening environments, from foam earplugs for the monster rally to concert-goer plugs and custom electronic shooting plugs to keep you fierce in your competitive shooting arena – we have solutions and education to help you protect your hearing.

If you or a loved one is interested in learning more about custom hearing protection, or if you’d like to schedule a comprehensive hearing assessment – please get in touch today.

At Audiology & Hearing Aid Associates, we’ve been caring for the hearing health of the La Grande community since 1982, so we want you to know we’re here for you.

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Erika Shakespeare CCC-A

Erika Shakespeare, CCC-A, specializes in pediatric and adult diagnostics and amplification. Working with adults to help manage tinnitus and hearing loss since 2002, she is an expert in both of these areas. Additionally, she is a pediatric audiology mentor and educator for pediatric audiologists across the country and is one of the most respected experts on pediatric audiology.

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