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THE SAFETY ZONE | TODAY'S TIP

When Buying Jewelry or Hearing Aids, Be Sure to Ask Questions First

March 27, 2000

Some tips for jewelry purchases.

* Ask about the store's refund and return policies before you buy.

* Check for the appropriate markings on metal jewelry.

* For simple gold jewelry, without special design or workmanship, comparison shop for the best price based on the item's gram weight and the price of gold.

* Ask if the pearls are natural, cultured or imitation.

* Ask whether the gemstone is natural, laboratory-created or imitation.

* Ask if the gemstone has been treated. Is the change permanent? Is special care required?

* Make sure the jeweler writes on the sales receipt any information you relied on when making your purchase, such as the gem's weight or size. Some jewelers also may supply a grading report from a gemological laboratory.

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About 15 million Americans suffer some hearing loss. Of these, more than 10 million have never had a doctor test their hearing. Hearing aids often cost several hundred dollars, yet many buyers have been duped into paying for aids they don't need. If you are shopping for a hearing aid, here are some tips for making a wise purchase.

* Know the law:

1. Prior to sale, a hearing aid seller must show you a pamphlet describing what the aid can do, how it works and how to use it. The pamphlet must also warn you which conditions require a doctor's prompt attention.

2. A hearing aid may not be sold to you until you show the seller a statement from your doctor stating that you need a hearing aid. Or, if you are 18 or older, you can waive this requirement.

3. The seller must keep your doctor's statement (or waiver) on record for at least three years. A hearing aid seller must be licensed by the California Board of Medical Quality Assurance. If you buy a hearing aid at home, you may cancel the sale within three days if you change your mind.

* Ask a doctor if a hearing aid will help you. Hearing aids do not help every kind of hearing loss, and some even become worse by using an aid.

* Hearing aids make sounds louder, not clearer.

* A hearing aid seller's license represents permission to sell hearing aids, and does not represent special training to diagnose hearing loss or prescribe treatment.

Source: L.A. Consumer Protection Division

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