Articles Tagged with defective earplugs

Retired Army Ranger Chet Sechrest and I continue our conversation on the potential for hearing damage in the military, the crucial need for proper hearing protection, and 3M Earplugs:

image-300x200Clay: So Chet as a medic you would supervise and train soldiers in the proper use of hearing protection? But you also said the Army beat into your heads the importance of protecting your hearing in whatever you were doing in the field?

Chet: Absolutely. In fact, for a long time, they had the annual hearing exam requirement. And it was like a pre-deployment requirement, you couldn’t deploy unless you had your hearing exam for that year. So the command was interested in tracking, hearing issues, to make sure that you know, not everybody’s going to go deaf. Does that make sense?

3M Earplugs and Hearing LossYou likely know there is massive litigation emerging around 3M Company’s Combat Arms, dual-sided earplugs. These 3M Earplugs were sold to the U.S. government and distributed to members of the military in a huge contract over a period of 12 or 13 years. And many lawsuits have been filed recently that allege that these 3M Earplugs were defective, and they left thousands and thousands of soldiers with permanent hearing loss or tinnitus. It’s called noise-induced hearing damage. So my friend Chet Sechrest will talk about the unique ways that soldiers are exposed to loud noises. And it’s not always what you think; it’s not simply shooting a rifle or getting trained and the use of weapons or rifles, but also it could be serving as a mechanic for heavy engines, or being exposed to loud tanks or other industrial equipment. And as Chet points out, it could also simply be taking rides on very loud helicopters over and over again without the proper hearing protection. But that’s enough of an introduction. Let’s get to my Q&A with Chet Sechrest.

Clay: Chet was an Army Ranger and a member of Special Forces. He pulled three tours of duty in Iraq. So Chet, how long did you serve in the military?

Chet: I served a total of 27 years and nine months in the military.

Female soldier wearing 3M Earplugs suffers hearing damage
Hearing loss is awful no matter how it happens. I’m sure it has been stellar to play guitar for The Who, as Pete Townshend has done for decades. Sadly though he now suffers from serious hearing loss and tinnitus. Townshend contracted noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) after years standing too close to powerful amplifiers projecting extremely loud rock music. Eric Clapton has also suffered hearing loss because of his work as a blues guitarist and rock musician. Townshend and Clapton have had legendary careers, but their suffering today from hearing loss is very real and awful.

The reality is, anyone who works in loud environments can suffer NIHL. Musicians, engine mechanics, construction workers, miners, and farmers are all susceptible to hearing loss from the work they do in loud environments and with loud equipment. (I’ve even read that the squeal of a pig can reach decibels of 115, louder than a power tool!)

Perhaps the worst cruelty occurs when members of our armed services suffer hearing loss. These are people who volunteer to keep us safe. These are people who choose a career which may call for them to go to war and fight and possibly die to protect the rest of us. Of course you would expect that the least we would do as a nation is to send these men and women out to train and serve with the safest possible equipment. Sadly, though, news reports are emerging that military service members were issued defective earplugs that may have caused permanent hearing damage to hundreds of thousands of soldiers. These earplugs were developed by the Aearo family of companies, which was then bought out by 3M Company. The earplugs were called Dual-Ended Combat Arms Earplugs (CAEv2). And between 2003-2015, Aearo and 3M sold millions of pairs of these earplugs to the branches of the armed forces. If you served in the military during this period and were issued dual-sided earplugs (with a distinctive olive and yellow color), you got the Combat Arms Earplugs.

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