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VALLEYWIDE FOCUS

State Blocks Man's Sales of Hearing Aids

September 18, 1993|SAM ENRIQUEZ

State authorities on Friday revoked the license of a Tarzana businessman who sold a one-size-fits-all hearing aid, advertising a money-back guarantee and famous clients such as former President Ronald Reagan.

William George Brennan, 65, has been stripped of his state license to dispense hearing aids, said M. Elizabeth Ware, executive officer of the Department of Consumer Affairs' hearing aid dispensers examining committee.

The celebrity gimmick--which drew thousands of orders for the Keen Ear hearing aid--turned out to be false, authorities said.

Reagan never used the device, and neither did others mentioned in the company's advertisements, authorities said.

In addition, the hearing aids drew hundreds of complaints from unhappy customers, mostly senior citizens who were refused refunds, state officials said.

"Many people found that it didn't fit their ear and so it didn't work for them," Ware said.

"Most effective hearing aids have a casing that is molded to fit an individual's ear."

Brennan did not contest the revocation. He could not be reached for comment.

The Keen Ear sold for under $200, far less than the $800 to $1,500 normally charged for a custom-fitted hearing aid.

California requires a license to fit and sell hearing aids.

To qualify, individuals must pass a written test, as well as perform a hearing test on a client before a panel of professionals.

Brennan, who was issued his state license in 1987, violated several sections of the state's business and professions code, including the failure to honor a money-back guarantee and misleading customers into thinking that celebrities such as Arnold Palmer, Art Carney, and Lorne Greene used his product.

"He was preying on a vulnerable market," Ware said.

"In California, at least, the people filing complaints tended to be older, retired and living on a fixed income. . . . There may have been people who were satisfied with the product, but we had an overwhelming number of complaints."

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