defence connect logo



Lawsuit investigates defective Combat Arms Earplugs in Australian Defence Force

US Army Pfc. Douglas Wojtowicz and fellow soldiers from the 2nd Battalion, 8th Cavalry Regiment show their combat ear plugs during a pre-combat check at Camp Taji, Iraq, on 7 February 2007, prior to conducting a night mission.

A class action is being investigated to compensate Australian Defence Force personnel who suffered hearing loss while using allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplugs.

A class action is being investigated to compensate Australian Defence Force personnel who suffered hearing loss while using allegedly defective Combat Arms Earplugs.

The investigation will seek to determine if Aearo Technologies, owned by American multinational 3M, manufactured and supplied defective Combat Arms Earplugs (CAE) to ADF personnel who served from 2003, according to Brisbane-headquartered personal injury law firm Shine Lawyers.

The ADF was supplied with CAE ear protection between 2003 and 2015 to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus in active military personnel. The double-sided CAE, which used an all-block side and a high-pitch blocking only “whisper mode” side, were designed to protect the inner ear of military personnel from noise associated with military training and combat, while also eliminating the need to carry two different sets of earplugs.


3M bought Aearo Technologies in 2008 and took over the original military contract. 

“It is alleged that the CAE failed to form a proper seal when inserted, meaning they did not protect the user’s ear from the excessive noise that would occur when using combat equipment, industrial equipment, or when working with heavy machinery,” a statement from Shine Lawyers said.

“This may have led to total or partial hearing loss, tinnitus, vestibular disturbance and other forms of ear damage.”

The Australian law firm further alleges personnel may have suffered common injuries including tinnitus (constant ringing in the ears), general hearing damage or pain requiring medical treatment, diagnosed total hearing loss, loss of balance, vertigo, postural instability or blurred vision associated with using the defective Combat Arms Earplugs.

The company has called for former ADF personnel with an interest in the class action to contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 1800 325 172.

3M, which has already faced multiple individual lawsuit actions in the United States, recently announced they had agreed to pay a settlement of $6 billion to resolve Combat Arms Earplugs litigation between 2023 to 2029.

The earplugs were reportedly worn by US military personnel from 2003 to 2015 in training, combat and international deployments including in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“The strong support from more than 250,000 eligible claimants who have elected to participate in the settlement and release and dismiss their claims, coupled with ongoing dismissals of claims that do not meet participation or litigation requirements ordered by the Multidistrict Litigation Court, are expected to resolve more than 99 per cent of the claims in the litigation by the final registration date,” according to a 3M statement on 29 January this year.

In July 2018, the US Department of Justice announced that 3M had agreed to pay US$9.1 million to resolve allegations that it knowingly sold the dual-ended Combat Arms Earplugs Version 2 to the US military without disclosing defects that hampered the effectiveness of the hearing protection device.

“The Department of Justice is committed to protecting the men and women serving in the United States military from defective products and fraudulent conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A Readler of the Department’s Civil Division at that time.

“Government contractors who seek to profit at the expense of our military will face appropriate consequences.”

In that settlement, it was alleged that 3M violated the False Claims Act by selling or causing to be sold defective earplugs to the Defense Logistics Agency. In addition, the US Department alleged that 3M and its predecessor, Aearo Technologies, knew the CAEv2 was too short for proper insertion into users’ ears and that the earplugs could loosen imperceptibly and therefore did not perform well for certain individuals.

You need to be a member to post comments. Become a member for free today!