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See doctor before buying hearing aid

I bought two hearing aids from Better Hearing Inc. in February, putting down a deposit of $500. Richard Christilles, part owner, sold them to me.

When he made the impressions he inserted one so far into my ear that I lost more of my hearing. I called him the next day and he said my hearing would come back, but it did not.

When I received the hearing aids I paid another $1,300. I was told that if I did not like them I could return one and get a refund of $900.

The one aid was poorly fitted (too large). I sent it back five times and they said they would make it fit. Also, in a crowd it was so loud I couldn't hear what was being said.

Finally, Mr. Christilles insulted me (we were getting nasty with each other) after I asked for a refund.

The other partner took over. He had the hearing aid fitted with a background noise device that was supposed to eliminate noise. I was charged $165 for this background noise part and $30 to repair the aid even though it still was under warranty.

But it is no better than the new hearing aid I finally bought from another agency which fits and works for me and cost only $750.

I want the $165 refunded. I am already out $900, which is enough to pay for something I cannot wear. I would appreciate anything you can do to have the $165 returned to me and the $30 canceled out.

S.

H.

Response: Richard Christilles denies that they did anything to injure you or make your hearing worse. He said he will refund the $165 for the noise suppressor and cancel the $30 bill, but added that there is no pleasing you.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, companies should not claim that their hearing aids eliminate background noise or restore hearing to what it once was. While devices can amplify sound and dampen loud noises, they cannot differentiate between conversation and "noise," and no hearing aid will restore hearing to what it once was.

If you have a hearing problem, these are the steps you should take:

Get tested by a certified audiologist. Check out the speech and hearing clinics at the local hospitals.

Our experts tell us that hearing aid prices vary depending on the brand and your specific needs, but the average price for a linear aid should run between $450 and $900. The new digital aids run between $1,800 and $2,200 each. Do not pay more, they say. The extra dollars will go into advertising, fancy buildings and the salesman's pocket.

Also, make sure to get in writing that you have a 30-day free trial period. If you decide for any reason that you do not like the product, you should be able to return it by the end of that time for a complete refund.

Virtually all hearing aid manufacturers have 30- to 60-day return for credit policies. There is no reason why this policy should not be passed on to the consumer.

Florida Statute 848.0513 states that you can rescind your hearing aid contract and get all your money back if a doctor subsequently certifies in writing that a hearing aid will not benefit you _ provided you notify the seller by certified mail within 60 days of the purchase and you return the hearing aid.

If you run into problems, consult an attorney or seek help from Small Claims Court. From our mail we can tell you that this industry is fraught with problems.

One man we heard about was given a two-week trial period for his $2,400 hearing aids. When he returned them, however, the company refused to refund his initial $300 deposit. They said it represented their "processing fee."

The man's attorney took the company to court. It took a private investigator to find the company owner and serve him with papers _ whereupon he declared bankruptcy.

Finally, the naked truth given

I wrote you about three weeks ago with a question but haven't gotten an answer. I wanted to find out where the term "naked as a jay bird" came from because a jay bird is not naked.

J. Z.

Response: The only reference we could find in A Supplement to the Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. II, indicates that the phrase was first used in 1943 in American Speech XVIII and by J. T. Rowland in 1963 in North to Adventure.

Another reference to "naked as a robin" leads us to believe that the phrase denotes a lack of possessions or wealth rather than clothes.

Action solves problems and gets answers for you. If you have a question, or your own attempts to resolve a consumer complaint have failed, write: Times Action, P.O. Box 1121, St. Petersburg, FL 33731, or call your Action number, 893-8171, to leave a recorded request for Action.

Requests will be accepted only by mail or on our voice mail system; calls cannot be returned. We will not be responsible for personal documents, so please send only photocopies. If your complaint concerns merchandise ordered by mail, we need copies of both sides of your canceled check.

We may require additional information or prefer to reply by mail; therefore, readers must provide a full mailing address, including ZIP code. Upon request, names will not be published.

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