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Hearing aid company banned from Chatham Senior Centers

Posted Monday, August 25, 2008

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Pittsboro, NC - The Chatham County Council on Aging has stopped a Beltone hearing aid franchise from using its two senior centers for hearing testing. "We learned that the franchise was using the centers as a place to sell their products," said Angel Dennison, the council's director.

She said that the Beltone franchise violated an agreement to limit their activity in the centers to free screenings for hearing problems for individuals referred to them by the Council's wellness program.

"They used direct mail solicitation, previously unknown to us, that implied the mailing was from the senior centers," said Dennison. The mailing did not mention the Beltone name. "We now are aware that they periodically used these opportunities to sell their hearing aids to some participants. Retail sales of products through the senior centers is forbidden...and they knew that."

The Council became suspicious of the Beltone franchise's marketing practices when the number of times that the franchise reserved space for screenings and follow-up testing increased. "As a result of their marketing program, some people were invited back for further testing, with some of these targeted to buy the Beltone hearing aids," Dennison said. "A few people who qualified based on income received free hearing aids, but these are provided through the NC Department of Health and Human Services, not through Beltone."

In addition, the franchise has listed the senior center on the Beltone Corporate website as a Belton Hearing Care Center. "No such relationship has ever existed," said Dennison.

"I encourage anyone who has individual questions or concerns about this situation to contact me directly," Dennison said. "The Council's goal is to provide free screenings for hearing, but we will not use Beltone to provide these services."

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