Costco Hearing Aids
I’m a huge fan of Costco. I’ve owned their stock for years, love the way they treat their employees, their overall business mentality, and the huge discounts on pricing. One thing many people may not know about Costco is that they actually have hearing aid centers inside a good amount of their stores. These hearing aid centers are usually staffed by one or two hearing aid dispensers, who will conduct hearing tests for the purpose of fitting hearing aids, and then provide all the fitting and follow up services necessary. In this post, I’ll detail which hearing aids Costco sells, and why you may or may not want to buy your next set of hearing aids from a Costco hearing aid center.
Before proceeding, be aware that so much of your eventual success or failure with hearing aids depends on how good of a hearing provider you work with. If you were to do a search for “Costco hearing aid reviews”, you would get wildly varying reports of people who had great experiences, and folks who had awful experiences. Soon enough, I’m sure that some of these people will tell their stories in the comments section below. The point I’m trying to make is, be sure to read any available local reviews of your Costco hearing aid center before deciding whether or not to buy your hearing aids there.
What hearing aids does Costco sell, and are they any good?
If you look at the bottom of Costco’s website, you’ll see that they sell hearing aids built by the following companies: Kirkland Signature, Rexton, ReSound, Bernafon, and Phonak (as of March 2014). All of those companies build good hearing aids. Of those brands listed, the Kirkland Signature is the one that Costco probably sells the most of, and it’s the brand that is given most of the attention on Costco’s website. The most popular hearing aid in the Kirkland Signature line is the Kirkland Signature 5.0 premium hearing aid. This hearing aid is rumored to be similar in technology/features to ReSound’s Verso 7. The Verso 7 is a pretty good hearing aid which was released in the first quarter of 2013. Costco sells a pair of Kirkland Signature 5.0’s for $1,899.
Why are Costco’s price so low?
If you were to buy the equivalent of the Kirkland Signature 5.0 Premium hearing aid (something like the ReSound Verso 7), from your local ZipHearing provider, you’d probably pay around $3200 for the set. As you can see, that’s quite a difference in price, and when you see that price difference, your initial thought might be, “gee, hearing providers outside of Costco are really ripping people off.” While it might look that way, it’s not the case. The biggest reason for this price difference is due to the fact that Costco is able to buy hearing aids from manufacturers at lower prices than independent hearing providers, which in turn allows them to sell hearing aids for much less. Independent hearing providers would love to sell hearing aids at the price Costco does, but because their acquisition costs are quite a bit higher, it’s just impossible.
Below I’ll give an overview of the most common arguments (for and against) buying hearing aids from Costco. From there, you can decide what might be best for you.
Why you might want to buy hearing aids from Costco
- Low prices
- 90 day 100% risk-free trial periods
- Free service for the life of the hearing aids (around 5 years)
- 600 Costco stores to service your hearing aids (at no extra charge)
- Additional savings for using your Costco credit card
Costco really does have the lowest prices on hearing aids, by far. Often times you’ll end up paying 40-50% less at Costco than you will anywhere else for very similar technology. In addition, their 90 day risk-free trial and hassle-free return policy is the best in the industry. Most independent hearing providers offer a 30 day trial period and you are subject to certain fees if you decide to return your aids. Costco’s free service for life is nice, but it’s not that rare in the hearing aid industry. If I had to guess, I would say that greater than 50% of hearing providers offer the same lifetime service agreement. The fact that Costco has 600 stores where you can be serviced is awesome, but again, not entirely rare in the hearing aid industry. There are many nation-wide chain retailers of hearing aids that have even more offices and therefore a broader support system.
Lastly, there are even more savings to be had when you buy hearing aids from Costco. Although I believe the promotion varies from store-to-store, if you purchase your hearing aids with your Costco Amex, you can get up to an additional 10% off. In terms of prices, trial periods, and follow up service appointments, it is really hard to beat Costco’s offering. For a lot of people, buying hearing aids at Costco is a no-brainer. However, there are also a lot of people who say things like “I’d never buy hearing aids where I buy toilet paper and tires.” Below I’ll provide an overview of the most common reasons why people decide not to buy hearing aids from Costco.
Why you might not want to buy hearing aids from Costco
- Costco does not accept insurance
- Costco “Premium” hearing aids are not fully featured
- Costco stores don’t get premium technology until a year after it’s released
- Most Costco hearing aids are “locked”
- Appointments are only available during regular business hours
- Wait times can be up to 2 months for an appointment
If you have hearing aid benefits through your health insurance, Costco is not an in-network provider, so they aren’t an option for you. This may not affect you at all, as many people have zero hearing aid benefits. With regards to the technology Costco sells, although they do sell hearing aids from reputable manufacturers, they don’t sell fully-featured top-of-the-line product, which you may very well need. For instance, Costco’s Phonak product, the Brio, which is said be based on the Phonak Bolero Q90 (sold by independent providers), has several important features stripped away, such as EchoBlock, Tinnitus Balance, and CROS Compatibility.
With regards to the third point above, I believe that Costco has arrangements with their manufacturers whereby they cannot begin selling new technology at the Costco hearing aid centers until it has already been on the market for a year. This may not be a big issue for you, as most of the time when you buy hearing aids, the particular model you end up buying has been out for a few months anyway. It does matter however, when you want brand new technology that was released within the last 12 months (as many people do).
With regards to the fourth point above, if you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you’ve heard me talk about the pitfalls of “locked” hearing aids before. You may know that all the adjusting of hearing aids is done via computer. Manufacturers give retailers specific software to do this. Costco has their own software that allows them to program Costco hearing aids, but then those hearing aids cannot be programmed by anyone else. You are essentially “locked” in to Costco and can only get them adjusted there. This is not unique in the hearing aid industry, retailers like Beltone and Miracle-Ear have the same type of set up. I’ve seen this really turn out bad for people in the past. If you have a falling out with your hearing provider, lose faith in their abilities, or just want to have someone else service your aid, you can’t. While it may not be a big deal to you, it’s something to consider.
Lastly, what Costco hearing aid centers lack is the flexibility to attend to customer needs however they see fit. If for example, you need appointments outside of regular business hours, you need appointments in your home, or you need emergency appointments. When I was dispensing, I can’t tell you how many phone calls I would get like this, on a Saturday morning- “I am going out of town for a wedding and I can’t hear anything, please help!” In these situations, most independent providers will either come to your home to help you out, or open the office briefly outside of regular hours to attend to your needs. In addition, if you buy a device like a TV streamer, it can be tricky to get set up properly in your home, and to get everything to work (and sound) the way it should. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone out to client homes to set up that type of equipment. Sometimes in-home appointments really make the difference, and you just can’t get that from a big box store. Finally, to add on to this point of lack of flexibility, it has been reported that people have had to wait 2 months for an appointment at their local Costco hearing aid center. Several people have told me this, though of course it’s not going to be the case at every Costco center.
So is there a happy medium?
Yes. If what you are looking for is discount pricing, and all of the benefits of buying from an independent hearing provider, then you should consider buying hearing aids from your local ZipHearing provider. The prices are still going to be higher than Costco’s, because no one can compete with Costco, but the prices will be much lower than retail, and you’ll be able to have them programmed by a local, independent hearing provider. For a brief overview on how the ZipHearing program works, see this page. For many people (not all), this program is the perfect balance of price, personalized attention and care, and state-of-the-art technology.
If you’d like a free phone consultation with a licensed hearing provider, please feel free to call us at 800-731-6794.