Lourdes Whiteman's new hearing aid from Audien Hearing isn't what she expected, and neither is the company's 30-day refund policy. Audien is offering her only half of her money back. Why?

Q: I ordered a hearing aid from the Audien Hearing company recently. The company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and easy returns.

I was disappointed with the product. Audien claims that their hearing aids are smaller than a dime and they are definitely not! They also claim that they are “virtually invisible.” Not so. They are so big that they would stick out of the ear canal like a sore thumb. I didn’t even try them on because they were so bulky.

I returned them the same day I received them. Audien will only refund 50% of my purchase ($67) because I opened the box. That doesn't make sense. How can you know the quality of the item if you don't open the box?

I’d greatly appreciate your help in this matter. I have done everything possible and, after numerous emails, the company is still refusing to pay. Can you help me get my $135 back? -- Lourdes Whiteman, Stroudsburg, Pa.

A: If you opened the box but didn't even try the hearing aid, you should be able to get a full refund. Audien's 30-day refund policy is clear. To be eligible for a full refund, your item must be unused and in the same condition that you received it. It must also be in the original packaging.

So why is Audien keeping half your money? Keep reading the terms. There are "certain situations" where Audien will charge a restocking fee. If you opened or used the hearing aid, if the item is not in its original condition, or if it's damaged, the company charges a $29 restocking fee. That covers Audien's cost of processing, sanitizing and testing the inventory.

But Audien only refunded $67, which means it was taking more than $29. What's going on?

Before I get to the answer, a few words about hearing aids. The price range for a quality hearing aid is somewhere between $1,000 and $6,000, give or take. If someone offers you a hearing aid for less than $100, be skeptical -- very skeptical.

I'm not saying that discount hearing aids are a scam. But if you look online, you'll find plenty of people who do. Read the reviews and consider them when you're selecting a hearing aid. Also, talk to your doctor.

It could be worse. I have a close relative who needs a hearing aid but refuses to wear one. Instead, she reads everyone's lips and pretends that she can hear.

I understand your Audien hearing aid was a big disappointment. I think if you'd taken a look at the reviews and read the terms of your purchase, you might have made decisions that would avoid this loss. I see you included a handwritten letter with your returned product. That was probably minimally effective. A brief, polite email to the company (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) might have yielded better results.

You may not be entitled to a full refund, but I'm puzzled by the extra $38 Audien charged you. So, I asked. In response, Audien sent you a full refund.

Christopher Elliott is the chief advocacy officer for Elliott Advocacy. Email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or get help with any consumer problem by contacting him at elliott.org/help.

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