The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Veterans Fight Hearing Damage

Apr 8, 2024

Corporate giant 3M will pay six billion dollars to nearly 250,000 veterans who acquired hearing loss or permanent ringing in the ears because of defective earplugs the company sold to the U.S. military. This settlement is being called the biggest mass lawsuit in U.S. history. The facts show how corporations use government money for their own profit, not for anyone else’s safety or benefit.

In 1999, AEARO, owned by Wall Street hedge fund Vestar Capital Partners, began selling its dual-sided Combat Arms Earplug Version 2 to the U.S. military. Company researchers had not yet tested the earplugs, and when they did, they quickly realized the earplugs fall out too easily and are ineffective. But AEARO said they were effective. The military made them standard use for all deploying service members and bought more than five million pairs over the following decade. 3M bought AEARO in 2008 and raised the price from five dollars to eight dollars per pair, selling the military millions more. Only after a competitor sued and exposed how AEARO lied did 3M stop selling them to the military in 2015. But it still markets identical earplugs to private construction workers!

An audiologist who works with veterans explained the damage done to a quarter million troops and who knows how many civilians: “They try to adapt. They go back to work. They go back to their families, but there’s one slight difference: They’re not hearing.”