Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company adjust their ear protection in September 2014 before firing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Marines with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company adjust their ear protection in September 2014 before firing at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (John Baker/I Marine Expeditionary Force  )

A $6 billion settlement involving roughly 250,000 veterans will move forward in a lawsuit that argued faulty earplugs were sold to the military for use during the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

For the settlement, 98% of service members and veterans with claims had to agree to it. 3M, the Minnesota-based company that made the earplugs, announced Tuesday that 99% of claimants are on board.

3M denies liability but has agreed to the settlement, which will resolve all earplug-related claims in the federal multidistrict litigation and in Minnesota state court, according to the company. The case was one of the largest mass tort cases in U.S. history.

From 1999 to 2015, 3M and its subsidiary companies produced and sold the combat-arms earplug, which lawsuits have said slipped from the wearer’s ear, resulting in hearing loss and tinnitus, or a ringing of the ears.

Out of roughly 293,000 claims, more than 249,000 claimants have registered to participate in the settlement and more than 41,000 claims were dismissed, according to 3M. Final participation is expected to be about 99.9%.

“We are pleased that this settlement has received widespread acceptance from service members who experienced hearing damage from 3M’s defective earplugs,” said Bryan Aylstock, court-appointed lead counsel for the plaintiffs. “This result also rebukes the false premise that only contrived bankruptcies can provide defendants the finality they seek when their products injure people on a mass scale. As shown by the overwhelming positive response to this settlement program, a fair resolution through the civil justice system can provide both swift relief to victims and also give corporate defendants global peace.”

Prior to the settlement, some cases went to trial in federal court with mixed results. In most trials the jury sided with veterans with payouts between $880,000 to more than $50 million.

Under the agreement, 3M will pay the nearly 250,000 veterans up to $6 billion between 2023 and 2029, the company said. 3M and Aearo, its subsidiary responsible for the earplugs, have said each are working with insurance companies to offset a portion of the payments. However, that process is involved in a lawsuit filed in Delaware and arbitration proceedings.

Payouts will vary because each case is evaluated on a person’s medical records, according to a website dedicated to the settlement, which is being managed by the litigation management company BrownGreer. That website is

If it were divided equally, payouts would be $24,000 per veteran.

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now