AUTHOR’S UPDATE:  For more 0n this story, see my HearingHealthMatters.org colleague Holly Hosford-Dunn’s two posts on the topic at Hearing Economics and read the various posts that published on the Hearing Views blog. 

 

By David H. Kirkwood

WARRENVILLE, IL—Jeff Newnham, president of Phonak LLC, confirmed to Hearing News Watch this week that, as had been widely reported on the Internet, his company and Costco Wholesale Corporation have reached an agreement under which the nation’s second largest retailer will start offering its customers a model of Phonak hearing aids, the Phonak Brio, at its approximately 500 hearing aid centers in North America.

1389002386188When that occurs, sometime this spring, Phonak, part of the Swiss-based Sonova Group, will become the fourth of the “Big Six” hearing aid manufacturers to distribute its products through Costco.  Currently, Rexton, which is owned by Siemens; Bernafon, a member of the William Demant group, which includes Oticon; and ReSound sell hearing aid to Costco. Thus far, Starkey Hearing Technologies and Widex are not Costco suppliers.

Costco, which is based in the Seattle area, prices its hearing aids in the range of $500 to $1000, which is far below—50% or more–the average retail price nationwide for comparable products.

 

CUSTOMERS REACT STRONGLY

In online comments, some independent audiologists who carry Phonak hearing aids, have expressed alarm about how they may be affected if a nearby Costco store offers Phonak hearing aids for much less than they charge. Even though other manufacturers sell hearing aids through the Costco channel, Phonak’s decision to do so was particularly upsetting to some independent practitioners, who expressed outrage and a sense of betrayal.

In explaining the strong reaction, one audiologist in private practice (who does not routinely dispense Phonak hearing aids) said, “Phonak has always been seen as one of the premium manufacturers and is widely used by audiologists and dispensers in private practice. I think many audiologists in private practice fear that consumers won’t understand why a Phonak hearing aid at Costco may cost much less than one being offered at their practice, even though there could be many differences in features and models available, as well as the accompanying services that may be included in the overall cost of a hearing treatment plan.”

 

REASSURANCE FROM PHONAK

Phonak was well aware that the decision to join some of its competitors in doing business with Costco would be upsetting to existing customers. Interviewed by this blog on March 10, Jeff Newnham and Kimberly Rawn, senior manager of communications and public relations for Phonak, said that the company is reaching out to audiologists and hearing aid dispensers to reassure them.

Newnham pointed out that the Costco centers offer a very different delivery model which appeals to a price-driven clientele different from the patients who go to a professional office that follows a medical model. He said that Phonak’s message to its independent customers is, “If you’ve been successful for years when there has been a Costco hearing aid center nearby, you have not been competing with them on price. You are selling the value of your service, your expertise, and the customized care you provide.” Therefore, said the Phonak president, the professionals who have been successful until now should continue to be.

Rawn said that Phonak’s decision to work with Costco was consistent with its fundamental goal of providing more people with the hearing help they need. She said, “We want to help all hearing-impaired people, including consumers motivated by price.” However, she said, “The independent audiologist will continue to be our primary focus.”

 

ABOUT PHONAK BRIO

Newnham and Rawn both noted that the Phonak Brio, which will be available only from Costco, will be distinct from any other Phonak model. While it will use the latest Phonak platform, they said Brio will have fewer features than the higher-end models that independent practitioners can offer patients. Thus, it will be impossible to make a valid head-to-head price comparison between the devices sold by Costco and those offered elsewhere.

13w0511-CHAC-microsite-logoCostco would not comment directly on an online report that it would charge $1395 for a Brio. Instead, Tammy Clark, director of training for Costco Hearing Aid Centers, said, “Phonak pricing will be consistent with the premium level pricing noted for all suppliers.” She added, “You can review our pricing on Costco.com.”

79 Responses to Phonak confirms that it will distribute hearing aids through Costco

  1. Jordon Trent says:

    Does anyone know when the Kirkland Signature 5.0 hearing aid will be refreshed? I am interested in a pair that interfaces with Apple products without any added accessories.

    • Tazz says:

      Jordan, the rumor is – Kirkland Signature 5.0 will be out in a few months. And will have the Resound LiNX…ahem….Made for iPhone technology that you are looking for.

  2. Warren says:

    When you hear that Phonak’s “Costco” model will not have all the same features it concerns me that it might not include a T-Coil for Hearing Loop connectivity.

    • David says:

      Hearing loops and Tele-coils are pretty much standard across the board today. I don’t think Costco would offer an aid without this feature. Now Blue Tooth and all their accessories is another story.

  3. GT says:

    I am heading to Costco..I am a small businessman and all my life I have had to be sharp and aggressive as well as wise to stay in business. Therefore I am always trying to find the best deal and save a buck. The hearing aid biz seems to be a huge rip off controlled by just a few companies who control this industry..It is appalling that aid’s cost thousands of dollars which many people can not afford. Their mark up is ridiculous and anyone that can bring down the insane cost of this worldwide rip off has my support. Go Costco

  4. Fred says:

    After all is said and done, why should i spend $8,000 for a set of Audibel HA’s with a blue tooth interface add-on when i can get a a set of Phonak with its BT interface at Costco for $2,900? why is Audibel charging almost $600 for a BT interface similar to the Phonak for which is sold at Costco for $220? I am all for supporting the “little guy,” but come on the price difference is humungous. How does one justify spending $5,000 more for essentially the same item? What is offered in the Audibel system that makes it worth over double the price of the Phonak? I hate spending even $3,000, but if its worth it, I will pay the additional $5k. So far nobody has been able to help me justify spending more.

  5. Chris says:

    I notice that there is some debate on this board about hearing aid dispensers (“fitters”) versus audiologists.
    Having worn hearing aids for over 45 years, I have purchased aids from both audiologists and hearing aid dispensers. I have worn hearing aids since the sixth grade in school. While some of the audiologists were good, I have been served by audiologists who gave me the impression that their education made their services superior to that of dispensers. Sadly, their service did not always match their education. One time I had them to send off one of my hearing aids for repair. Since I cannot function in the public very well without a hearing aid, I anxiously waited for the call to come pick it up. When they received it, they were so professional, that his staff called and set up a five minute appointment for me several days later. I needed the hearing aid immediately, not days later. There was no reason they could not have called and told me to come pick it up immediately. It was already programmed, I just needed it returned. That was when I realized he did not understand my problem and needed some post-doctoral education. He had a highly organized professional office that served his needs but failed mine. If I can live days without a hearing aid, I don’t have to have one. Some of the best dispensers I have used are those who wore hearing aids themselves. They seemed to understand my loss. They worked hard to get the right fit and correct sounds. I had one whom I could call and he would immediately send me a loaner aid, even before I sent him my aid. If all things were equal and I had a choice between an audiologist and a hearing dispenser, I would choose the audiologist, but I have discovered there is more to dispensing hearing aids than education. A degree on the wall does not make one a better hearing aid “fitter.”
    As for Costco, I was tested by them and was surprised to find that an audiologist with a doctorate was doing the testing. Furthermore, they offered to loan me a hearing aid until they could get one for me. The only drawback was I could not use my VISA. They only take American Express which I don’t use.

    • Teri says:

      I’ve worn hearing aids for about 3.5 years. My first HA is a Phonak, and although I’ve been happy with it, I’m not completely satisfied with the service and experience from my HMO’s ENT. Being ready for my next set of HA, I decided to give Costco a shot. The overall experience was so much better than with the ENT! More interactive, more specific explanations, found the right dome, etc. As someone stated below, my first set of hearing aids cost $4000 and came with no instructions other than how to put them on. I was not sure how or how often they required cleaning, etc.
      The overall Costco experience was awesome! The tech even found a better dome than the one I have been using!
      I ordered the Phonak Brio and am very excited I went to Costco. Plus, they have a much better warrantee.

  6. Jeremy says:

    You can’t just walk in and be served at Costco. You have to make an appointment. This can be done in person or on the phone. Their testing area also serves as an office, so it is, in fact, private. They do not, however, offer loaners if your aid has to go in for repair. My audiologist does. Yes, you are do doubt giving up a modicum of personal attention, but the the cost difference isn’t minor. It is, in most cases, at least half the price of a hearing aid purchased at an audiologists. That is a lot of money. I may be giving up features but the important ones are still there, as far as I can tell.

    Just a note, the lack of real technical information provided by the manufacturers or the audiologists for that matter has always been of concern to me. Perhaps, because they see the end user as an elderly unsophisticated person, they market to them with pictures of happy end users and snappy marketing terms which mean very little. I know more about my $600 iPhone than I know about my $5000 hearing aid. They need to trust the end user.

    • mark Fisher says:

      Where do you buy your contact lenses? The hearing aid business has always trailed eyeware and other business models. Now you can buy your lenses direct to your door. How cool is that. You are witnessing the evolution in your industry embrace it. The dust will settle and the good will survive and prosper. I see the client getting the programming software with simple first fit and and moderate tweaking buttons. How often now does the first fit target pretty close. quit acting like you all wnt to save the world it is business pure and simple business. So when you walk past the hearing aid booth at a box store smile and be proud you are part of the business.

      28 years selling these 200.00 dollar items

    • Harry says:

      I could not agree more! The amount of true, worthwhile information given on the hearing aid is truly lacking.
      What is this whistling business? Why not just say feedback?
      The literature that Costco hands out is next to worthless and the internet sites of the manufacturers are not much better.
      Yes, I am not a youngster but I feel my technical expertise is in no way hindered because of my age, and as stated, I know more about my iPhone, MacBook Pro and iPad than I do about my Phonak hearing aids which six years ago, cost around $6,000.

      • David says:

        Suppliers and manufactures use the same tactics as car dealerships and auto manufactures. make the product difficult to service, extremely technical, or advertised as such, and you drive the buyer to a tech person. Remember how out one time anyone could work on a car.

    • Remag says:

      Getting info about cellphones is easy, but hear aids is no different than buying a mattress. The only info is superficial at best. I bought mine at Costco for under $2000, I was quoted $6000 for the same at the smaller sellers. As to service…….that’s what the farmer does when he brings the cow to the bull. I will be buying new HA’s at Costco for the same reasons as before.

  7. Anonymous says:

    So what you are saying is ALL Audiologists fit perfect? Do perfect audiograms? Fit perfect every time? C’mon…people were born, just not yesterday. There are many good Specialists out there. Yes, many bad ones also. But please don’t characterize ALL being good or bad. That’s why there are choices in this world. It’s called democratic. Maybe you would prefer a Socialist society?

  8. Harbinger says:

    I think it is unfortunate that the industry resists change and competition. The industry is changing because change is necessary to ensure growth and stability and the financial team at phonak realized that it could basically take a giant leap in its distribution by fitting at COSTCO. So, while the independents fret about it the cold hard reality is that PHONAK realized it could no longer rely on independents if it wanted to grow its business. Maybe that need for change says something about the independent model that we as an industry should look at very seriously, because it has left a huge whole in the market that Sam’s and COSTCO are filling. If, in the end, as we claim we just want to help everyone hear better, how can we complain about the arrival of big box hearing aids doing just that?

  9. No one in particular says:

    And here we come to the heart of the great debate of our industry. Should big box stores try to change a business model that has shown very little growth outside jumps in technology in the last twenty years? In the five years I have in the industry I have worked for 3 different companies and fit 3 different products. I have to say that when I first came in to the industry I felt like a used car salesman, whatever it took to get the sale, deal with the fallout later. Then my state passed a law requiring a mandatory return policy. That single piece of legislation took a state that generally is a late adopter anyway, and flipped the industry on its head. So many people in the industry decided to quit rather than change and focus on what our industry should be about anyway, service and helping people hear better. Many businesses closed their doors and this in turn left a vacuum in the market that the big box stores came in and filled. They simply out priced the competition and made them adapt or fail. So now a specialist living large with a 500% markup on their product has to deal with a measly 200-250% percent. They claim they had to charge so much because of advertising costs and the costs of servicing the product over the long term. The advertising costs are expensive, but one sale off a marketing campaign generally paid for that whole campaign.

    What I am trying to say is that change frightens us, but competition in a free market is a good thing, and as people try and find ways to save their money because money has little or no value anymore, most will be content to get something that works and works well, but is half the price even if it lacks a few features. The big six in the hearing industry seem to think it is still 2006, it is not, times are tough, and as they continue to advance their tech and the add-ons to try and appeal to the baby boomers, they forgot to find if the baby boomers have any money left. Some do, and always will, so there will always be a place for those businesses, but most are finally learning the concept of value for money and value in any industry will always be the biggest deciding factor in a consumers decision.

  10. AJ says:

    Why am I not allowed to program my own hearing aid? I have be using computer since they came out. I know how to use a graphic equalizer since I was 12 years old. ReSound will sell millions of iPhone hearing aids just because it allow the USER to increase bass and treble without going back to the dispenser, who never can get it right. Bass and Treble, just 2 channels. Just think when we have a full spectrum equalizer on our iPhones to adjust all 16 channels. I cannot wait. If COSTCO can do this then to COSTCO I go.

    • Joshua says:

      Unfortunately while you know how to use a graphic equalizer the state you live in has strict requirements on training necessary to program hearing aids. I say unfortunate because most professionals do not retain this knowledge since the main focus of the hearing aid industry is solely on sales. Also, there are no digital hearing aids out there that are only 2 channel instruments. Most are between 4-12 and some are 64 channel…

  11. Anonymous says:

    Hopeful & others:
    A business owners choice of margin and profit is theirs and theirs alone. Some would say it’s what the market will bear. Me, if you choose to make a nickel or a quarter, a deal is only a deal with two willing parties. And as you put it, if they “help a lot of people” money should not have anything to do with it. Right?

    Training is training. Just because someone went to college for 7 years or 4 years, or just passed their licensing exam, its more about what’s inside them and their willingness and patience to help someone with a disability. Now I’m not dumb enough to think that somebody with more education and knowledge has an advantage, but if they choose to shortcut, and just wanna profit with less caring, well than who really has the advantage then?

    I’ve been in this industry a very short time. I have read countless articles, and met people who continue to say those advanced educated people do not know how to sell, and they are more clinical than business mind. If you have the heart and “want to” you will succeed.

    Lastly, I got into this business to help and fit people. Not sell hearing aids. So my motto is whether you are in big box or private practice look in the mirror and find the heart of why we do what we do. If you can’t, then please exit the industry and allow those that care, to provide the best service imaginable to those in need.

    Please also know this is my opinion.

    • Anonymous says:

      I am sure my patients I referred out for 8th nerve rumors, cholestomas, Ménière’s disease, and the like are sure glad they didn’t go to you, your apprentice trained colleagues or Costco when they went for help with their hearing. I didn’t get a doctorate degree to sell hearing aids like a used car salesman. Placing health care in the hands of people with no professional training has been dragging down sales of hearing aids for years as many people expect that old song and dance, bait and switch and lack of regard for their health. If you want to truly help people then go to college where professional training is available. Otherwise sell cars, insurance, Avon or Girl Scout cookies.

      • Anonymous says:

        I refer many patients to a local trusted ENT. If there is any issue at all, that what my training tells me. I also fit mostly mild-moderate, because I simply don’t have the training to help those with larger losses. They are better off with someone who has the knowledge. Not earning commission I feel that helps my patients.

        Maybe I’m different than most, because I DON’T fit HA like your analogy to selling used cars. Yes you are correct many specialists do.

        Oh BTW I prefer FIT over SELL.

        Maybe your “doctorate degree” has given you a “god” like syndrome. IMO, you should get off your high horse, because there is room in this vast wide world for all of us.

      • Joshua says:

        I would ask that you continue to treat clinical issues I as a hearing aid dispenser cannot. But my training is focused solely on how to fit a hearing aid, it is my specialty and I would put that experience up against any doctorate of audiology any day of the week. I went to college and obtained training and a degree in communication disorders before deciding on a hearing instrument specialist license rather than an Au.D. I did this because the whole purpose of the Au.D program was to protect against the flow of new audiologists into the job market to protect those who are already licensed. So, as for putting the needs of the patient first, I do that, but the audiologist industry as a whole failed the patient when they decided to protect themselves and their own job security. They continue to spend more time and money trying to destroy my living and my career than they spend on care for their own patients. And the truth, as you well know, is that the average patient would never know the difference unless you told them what you were. Not all of us were furniture salesmen or old radio shack managers before getting in to the hearing aid industry.

      • Mark says:

        Looks like someone’s a bit bitter that they did the equivalent of earning a doctorate degree to sell insurance. Smart move haha- especially in an industry this fluid. Get over yourself anon, you’re not a Medical Doctor.

    • 8 YEARS says:

      I fit over 500 aids per year provided free by our government. I was using mostly Phonaks. I make salary and no comission. I shouldn’t care about this issue but agree that my beloved Phonak went to the dark side. Looking at Widex and Starkey when I get back to work. Boo ya Phonak, ya just lost 500 per month from one provider.

      • Ears2ya says:

        If you are a VA Audiologist then you also have GN Resound to issue Vets. GN has been at Costco for a long time but like Phonak Costco aids, they are not the same model that you have, i.e., less features.

      • smith says:

        So the patients come 2nd to you since Costco is trying to help people that may not be able to afford elsewhere. You are a big help!!!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      You have a very honest and laudable opinion.

    • desperate to hear says:

      Good for you, is refreshing to read of an audilogist that have a heart for helping people, don’t ever loose that. My question to you is what is your mark up on your products?
      I’m sorry but the biggest heart and the most caring audilogist is not going to help a person who need hearing aids and can’t pay the outreageous cost of hearing aids.
      Please follow up with some suggestions how you can, both make a living and help people with high quality service with low cost hearing aids.
      Unless audiologist find a way to deal with the big six manipulation of the market and find a way to cut cost, people will purchase from where they can afford it. People are not interested in fancy offices, if teh place is clean and they are treated well and the dispenser has the right knowledge and the price is right, you will have more people coming than you can handle. Go for it.

  12. Tyler says:

    Gary is such a homer for costco, I think he is doing their damage control.

  13. Maureen says:

    My biggest concern is that research shows that those who have hearing loss, only 20% are actually using hearing aids. To me, it means that audiologists are not doing a sufficient job in providing reasonably priced service, nor reasonably priced hearing aids. The Costco/Phonak partnership is a reaction to that.

    • Anonymous says:

      Oh really you think they partnered with costco to help people with price? Don’t be naive sweetie, this is 2014. Corporations are all about money. They are now counting on the quantity model of the big box stores to make even more money than they ever made from audiologists or hearing aid “fitters”. They won’t do any better than anyone else at making the hearing impaired to be compliant in using their hearing aids. I suspect that lack of time available after the sale will result in less compliance. And remember human nature makes many of us not compliant with our medical provider’s advice. Diet, exercise, flossing, ……are we all compliant?

      • cat says:

        Yes, you are probably right about corporations being all about the money, but what about us who SPEND the money. I had surgery twice in one ear years ago, I was advised to wear bilateral hearing aids but couldn’t afford them until 3 years ago – my life is completely different now and I am sorry I didn’t have the opportunity to make it better from the beginning – no matter how you slice, the spending starts with us.

      • Ronald Beck says:

        I went through the audiologist saga several years ago until discovering Costco. I had the same testing, a much more caring and knowledgeable person who fitted me with a hearing aid for my needs, not the pockets of the audiologists. My Rexton cost $1,800 for a pair that have served me well for four years with fabulous reexaminations whenever i called for an appointment. Cleaning and testing of my hearing would be done whenever i desired. This week i went back for another evaluation and was told that there were no changes, but i really want to hear on the phone better. I was shown the new Phonak that does all functions on auto, operates on a wire rather than a tube, and moves sounds on the phone to both ears, probably eliminating a need for bluetooth. I have a 90 day trial to see if they make a difference and will get my money refunded within a week if i determine that my current hearing aides are as good.

        If i went to an audiologist, I am positive that these hearing aides would cost me 5 to 7 thousand dollars at best. i am paying $2,599 and will begin comparing them to my Rexton aides next week. Costco is a blessing, the hearing specialists work for the customers, and it could not be a better situation. I have a feeling that my timing is great, being able to buy the Phonak Brio at Costco.

    • linda says:

      i think it means that many people who need hearing aids don’t get them because they can’t afford them.

  14. Margaret says:

    Downward pressure on pricing is FANTASTIC! We consumers of hearing aids need to advocate for ourselves – for both price and service. Just like any other business. Go Costco!!!

  15. Todd says:

    I am not the least bit concerned because as an audiologist in private practice, I focus on patient care experience. Costco has numbers and locations but what it lacks is the office professional experience. Word of mouth and physician referrals is the key for any business and right now Costco is just focused on price.

    • Gary says:

      Are you sure about that? How do you know? Have you been to Costco?

    • Larry A Boles says:

      Todd,
      You are wrong! Costco above all else is focused on MEMBER SERVICE, has always been that way and will stay that way.
      Larry

  16. Tazz says:

    Phonak has made it clear- money talks. It’s time for dispensers and audiologists (collectively) to learn to speak that language. If you haven’t done so yet, STOP supporting HearingPlanet, and stop supporting all Sonova subsidiaries.

  17. Anonymous says:

    I saw this posted elsewhere:
    Simple math—- 500 Costco’s (including a few international locations) averaging 20 Brio’s per month is 10,000 units per month. This is a guess, but says $675 per unit (special Costco price) x 10,000 is $ 6,750,000.00 per month x 12 = $ 81,000,000.00 Also, Costco is growing faster than anyone 20+% per year. How could anyone (Sonova) resist this reality. Do these numbers look accurate?

    • Andrew says:

      Those numbers are not even close to accurate. Many (most) Costcos don’t have hearing aid centers. Many dispensers are selling ReSound or Rexton instead of Phonak. Phonak’s making a lot with the partnership but not even close to 81 m.

  18. JLL says:

    I agree with most of the comments, but let’s face it, the industry is changing. Phonak, Siemens and GN Resound have all sold out. Time will tell if the other manufacturers follow suit. I for one refuse to sell another Phonak device. Even after 15 years of doing so. I’m just so damn angry at their price decision. It’s a complete slap in my face.The only other good choice that I can see is Starkey. If Starkey can make good on their “promised” made for iPhone product, then all the more reason to go that route. Frankly, it’s the only solid option for me as I don’t see Widex as the right choice for my patients. As I said, time will tell, but overall it’s not looking great for the little guys.

  19. Thomas Powers says:

    To set the record straight – Amplifon (Miracle Ear) is an independent company listed on the Italian stock exchange – it is NOT owned by Siemens.

  20. Mike says:

    Has anybody else ever thought that HIPAA may like to take a look at a Coscto or Sam’s locations. If I tried to fit a hearing aid in that environment , they shut me down.

    • Gary says:

      HIPPA is a law that must be adhered to in all locations. Costco has it posted on its booths.

  21. Gary says:

    Just like the first comment, you can get good or bad care anywhere. If you are not happy, you should complain at Costco!

  22. Anonymous says:

    IMO, Phonak has been planning this distribution plan for a while. They have and still do buy private offices. Those offices will still purchase from Phonak. Now as they move into Costco, their distribution increases. The lower margins hopefully to be offset by those private offices and any other independent who might not have a Costco near them.

    Yes it’s a stripped down version going into Costco, but the normal customer doesn’t know that. They will be led by price. But I also assume that the stripped down version will only fit mild/moderate.

    Lastly, whether the fitter is a specialist or an Audiologist, there are good ones and bad ones. They work for independents and they work for big boxes. It’s foolish to think that you can’t get good service from those specialists who work in the big boxes, because you can. But you can also get equally bad service from independents. It’s a two way street.

    • Fred Suza says:

      Anonymous said: Yes it’s a stripped down version going into Costco, but the normal customer doesn’t know that.

      Uhm, lets check my Phonak Audio 90 Brochure and the Costco Brio Brochure. Lets see:
      Phonak Naida:
      1.Sound Recover, 2. Ultrazoom, 3. Speech in Wind, 4. Auto Stereo Zoom, 5. Duo Phone, 6. Noise Block, 7. Sound Relax, 8. Whistle Block

      Costco Brio Brochure:
      1. Check, 2. Check, 3. Check, 4. Check, 5. Check, 6. Check, 7. Check, 8. Check

      OK, what did I miss. What was “Stripped Out” of the Costco Brio Version?

      • Larry says:

        Does anyone have an answer to this question??
        Called Phonak direct and they have an arrangement with Costco not to discuss anything about the Brio model!
        Larry

        • Erica says:

          @Larry: The marketing of the devices are the same. If I have 3 different levels of tech, the brochures all say the same thing. The difference is in the intelligence and logic of the algorithms between the models. Hope this helps.

      • Dick says:

        I am a first time HA buyer, and am considering buying the Costco Brio, and your post/comparison helps me make my final decision easier, after also visiting two audiologists. Besides the Brio R-312T, the Costco guy also mentioned the Audeo Q90 model, which seemed like more adjustments needed by user, but , at $300-400 per unit cheaper. Ideas on these 2 or others for a mild hearing loss in only one ear?

  23. Anonymous says:

    It’s my understanding that hearing aids sold from Costco are proprietary; they must be programmed and serviced at Costco. Can anyone confirm this?

    • george says:

      Resound told us that their aids sold at Costco can only be programmed by the Costco people. Resound aids sold elsewhere cannot be programmed at Costco.

      • Gary says:

        Thank you! The service one gets is not always dictated by the price one pays. No one mentioned that Phonak also owns Hearing Planet.

    • Anonymous says:

      The only product line, currently, offered at Costco that’s proprietary is the ReSound product. It sounds as if Phonak will be doing the same thing ReSound did with their product line offered at Costco. Bernafon and Rexton models sold at Costco are part of their normal lines and would be able to be programmed on the outside.

      • Larry A Boles says:

        You folks are right, and wrong. Some HA at Costco are made for Costco by the manufactures, some are the same that are offered to others. Some times with different names, but same product. Resound software, Rexton Software, Bernafon Software is the same be it at Costco or another office. The software is NOT special for Costco.
        Larry in FL.

    • Lori says:

      The private practice WILL be able to reprogram the Phonak Brio but Costco will not be able to program any other Phonak hearing aid.

  24. Hieronymous says:

    We are focusing on the smaller problem. At least the is a human contact when one buys a hearing aid at a Costco. What about GHI instruments being sold over the sears, Sam’s Club and Walmart websites? THAT is where our greater concern should lie!

  25. Thomas Lolan, Au.D. says:

    To be fair: I am not owned or in any way associated with Phonak. I dispense other products. However let’s clear the air: Siemens owns Rexton. Rexton products have been and still are a staple at Costco. Siemens owns Miracle Ear. Resound products are Beltone. Oticon are Avada and AccuQuest. Starkey dispenses instruments under sever brand names including Nu Ear. Phonak owns Unitron and so on…. In other words the 6 big names in the industry: Phonak, Siemens, Oticon, Resound, Widex and Starkey are all jockeying for the eventual “big box” dispensing model. The only manufacturer at this time (to my knowledge) that has not apparently made that move is Widex. Siemens is indeed apparently going to be in question as they are again poised for possible sale. Again this is a very interesting and fluid industry. One that, as well, can be quite confusing to the consumre

    • guyhearing says:

      Starkey Nuear Audibel all independents. Not sure where your info came regarding this. Widex and Starkey are the 2 that only support independence for now.

      • Larry A Boles says:

        Starkey is not just independent. The have in the past and currently doing business with the VA.
        Larry

        • linda says:

          they may very well do business with the VA. but all of my hearing aids dispensed by the VA are phonak including the new pair i will receive soon.

    • Employee says:

      One clarification: Phonak does not own Unitron; they are both owne by Sonova Corporation.

  26. Thomas Lolan, Au.D. says:

    I am an audiologist in private practice who dispenses a significant number of Phonak instruments. I have been a Phonak fan since the 70s when I taught deaf children and I wear Phonak instruments. We have a Costco being built very near my office as we speak. I was surprised and yet not surprised at the same time that Phonak is going to the “dark side”. The hearing instrument industry is very fluid right now. I have been in this industry for a very long time and have never seen such change. I would love to dispense instruments at a lower cost. I do not however have the purchasing power of a Costco. The patients who need perpetual service, programming, and care will indeed eventually suffer. This is an industry unfortunately that should never be perpetrated as a “sales” model. Hearing instruments are very complicated. Fitting them properly is even more complicated. Fitting hearing instruments with 99% of one’s patients being satisfied and the instruments not sitting idle in a drawer should be the challenge of every dispenser. I recently saw a patient who had been to another dispenser who wanted to sell her instruments for $8000. After evaluating her I referred her to an ENT where she will most likely have surgery for Otosclerosis and have much of her hearing returned. Will Costco do this? It will be interesting.

    • Anonymous says:

      I so agree with you. I am from Ontario and Canada has had this disease in the hearing aid industry for years now and it’s getting worse. Thank goodness these manufacturers motivated by greed , not what the hearing impaired need , are not getting the clients back for resale. The staff is inexperienced, have no clue how to for a hearing aid, and do not know how to resolve problems. How do I know that. They are coming into my office , and we correct the damage done and have a customer for life. But they always will rope in the poor victims motivated by price . But it will take that bad experience for them to get back to us . But they don’t care . Getting them once keeps their pockets lined

    • Gary says:

      Let me tell you something about Costco. They always take the high road and value customer service above all else.The people who buy aids at Costco get excellent service that is unlimited and free. Costco’s goal isn’t to sell the most hearing aids but to do the best job for every purchaser. The test and fitting protocal at Costco is as good as any in the industry.

      • Jerry says:

        If the service is so good at Costco; how come their hearing aid clientc can not book am appointment over the phone but they need to drive in and have to wait until the clinician is available to see them?
        Also, how can they fit hearing aids when they the ear canal is full with earwax instead of removing or referring to a family doctor/ ENT ?

        • Gary says:

          Really? I have never had any difficulty making an appointment at Costco using the phone, maybe not on the same day and usually the first thing done at the appointment is an otoscopic examination.

        • Mel Kleiman says:

          As a long time customer of COSTCO hearing aid. I will tell you that
          1. You can call and make an appointment.
          2. They preach and practice great customer service.
          3. Great price point.
          4. Revolutionizing the industry.

          Need new hearing aid. This will be my 5th pair and am going back to my audiologist because she has 30 years of experience and fitting hearing aid in many cases is still an art.

          • RJ says:

            Yes, great price! Price does not work for hearing aids. Right hearing aid selection for right patient with right audiogram (hearing test results) is the key to successful users. I have been seeing wrong audiograms from Costco with wrong hearing aid model selection. Patients are not satisfied with the quality of the hearing professionals at Costco. You pay less price for ‘wrong’ hearing aid. If it works for you great!! Unfortunately it does not work for most of my patients. Companies make money from you and you don’t get quality healthcare professionals or service.

            • satisfied says:

              RJ- Couldn’t disagree more I went To Costco after University Medical School physician referred me to Audiologist at the U. I was told I might benefit from HA. I was told the U did not dispense and I was given a list of several private Audiologists who sell. I went on friend recommendation to Costco. I was seen by an AUDIOLOGIST. I said I had the test results. I was told they were not interested in seeing because they would perform their own test at no charge. After test I gave the U results which were the same. We discussed all different Aids available. I was given the Audiologists suggestion after each was programmed and worn for awhile in the store. I purchased and waited for 2 days while need Aids were programmed and then I was told I had 90 days to wear and if didn’t like I could cancel. Cost was a fraction of friends who went elsewhere. They are happy with their choice and I am happy with mine. I can afford all available Aids from any seller but I feel no need to spend unnecessarily. I have had over the years retests at no charge. I paid far less for correct hearing Aids from a professional Audiologist acting professionally. Quality healthcare from quality healthcare Professional
              and quality service.
              Disparaging others is not Professional in my opinion.

        • ray says:

          I live in Ottawa, in Canada, and don’t understand Jerry’s problems in getting an appointment. I’ve had four appointment with the audiologist at one of our local Costco stores and made them all over the phone. At the the first appointment, I was told to visit a doctor and have earwax removed so a second, presumably more accurate, test could be done. I did so and have now purchased Rexton hearing aids from Costco.

      • Roy says:

        Well said Gary, my experience was to go to the approved Australian Government audiologist, and they tried to fit me with a poor quality aid supposedly based on suitability, not price and it was dreadful… sent it back, went to another top audio clinic and was recommended the most expensive OTICON hearing aid. OK, it was excellent but I did my due diligence, went to COSTCO who by the way had the most comprehensive & best testing procedures out of the 3 clinics, and obtained a Phonak aid that was a third of the price, and as good as the OTICON, and guess what – free service & check ups for 3 years included… that is customer service!

    • Roy says:

      Thomas, your point of view is a very well informed one and I have to agree with your sentiments & comments. Of course not all suppliers will be as diligent as yourself, and I have to say that the COSTCO I attended had a very qualified audiologist who examined me thoroughly and wanted to discuss medical history with my Doctor before applying very comprehensive tests to evaluate my hearing loss – nothing but praise for COSTCO, and their prices were f-fabulous with 3 years unlimited support/repairs.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why wouldnt Costco refer such cases as your patient to a physician?

    • Anonymous says:

      Why should i pay $8,000 for a set of Audibel with a BT interface, when for $2,900 at Costco I can get a set of Phonak Brio also with a BT interface? Both offer the same warranty, while Costco’s trial period is 60 days longer than Audibel. Being brand new to HA’s with a minimal loss due primarily to age I cannot justify the price difference. Although i begrudge having to spend any amount, i am certainly willing to pay the higher price if it is justified. So far the only one justifying the additional expenditure is the Audibel dealer. I am all for the “little guy,” but absent a good reason to pay more, I have to go to Costco.