A Chatsworth dispenser of hearing aids has been placed on probation for five years by the state Department of Consumer Affairs for "repeated negligent acts, fraud and gross incompetence," officials said Monday.
After an investigation prompted by consumer complaints, the state Hearing Aid Dispensers Examining Committee accused Coleman Shuwarger of "repeatedly issuing aids that did not improve patients' hearing and failure to perform proper tests or maintain patient charts."
In addition, officials said Shuwarger committed fraud by misrepresenting the capabilities of the hearing aids he sold and by not providing refunds as required under state law.
The committee is a consumer-protection agency that licenses and monitors hearing aid dispensers in the state.
After an investigation, committee officials file a report to the state attorney general's office. if a dispenser is accused of misconduct, a deputy attorney general represents the committee in a hearing before an administrative law judge. Some cases are settled before a hearing is required.
Shuwarger, for example, agreed to a five-year probation and other conditions that allow him to retain his license, said M. Elizabeth Ware, executive officer for the committee. The conditions require Shuwarger to pass a written and practical exam, submit quarterly reports to the state and to reimburse the state $1,000 for the cost of the investigation, Ware said.
"If he does not meet those terms, we can petition for a [license] revocation," she added.
The committee received 361 complaints from consumers about hearing aid dispensers last year, down from 438 in 1993. Of the complaints filed in 1994, the committee lodged 24 accusations, revoked seven licenses and placed six dispensers on probation, Ware said.