An outside look at Costco fittings

I suggested my neighbor go to Costco since he could get a pair of Naida aids for less than my wholesale cost. He got fit and I went with him for his follow up. At first they were not even going to let me in the fitting room with him, but I changed their minds. It was very interesting listening to the “professional” question him regarding adjustments. Upon fitting, they did not try to find out what programs were in his current aids and what he used them for. "Although they were close in the REM, my neighbor has been wearing hearing aids since he was 5 years old (67 now) and is some what of a power junkie. I suggested some changes to the prescription and an additional program which sounded a lot better to my neighbor. In questioning the consultant, I found out that a few years ago she was stocking shelves at Costco. They sent her to a crash licensing course to get licensed and now she is a hearing aid “professional”. I have to admit that I expected worse, she did do an “adequate” job. But there is a big difference between adequate and excellent. A person not knowing any better would have probably been happy with the fitting. I will probably take over the future programming though, 44 years experience is a little different than three years experience. I guess you do get what you pay for except in my case since I don’t charge my neighbor for what I do and have actually given him three sets of hearing aids in the past (being retired, that is not possible any more).

1 Like

Like so many situations, the Costco experience can vary greatly. Here is mine having been incredibly fortunate to have an HIS with years of hearing aid experience and a hearing aid user himself. I know my situation is exceptional on the high end of what people can experience and your story is the low end of what someone might experience.

I posted this in another thread over two years ago, and copied / pasted here.

I had an incredibly positive testing today at Costco. This is my fourth time since May this year seeking to obtain HAs. I had a guy named Collin, an HIS with 30+ years experience, over 20 of that running his own dispensing clinic in Oregon and then Montana, now in California at Costco. He has hearing loss from birth defects and has worn HAs for years. I’d guess him to be mid-40s to early 50s.

He asked what HAs I had tested or researched, I mentioned ReSound due to recommendations here. I mentioned an online hearing aid forum with users sharing information and he said that was probably very helpful. I mentioned that I was technical and computer literate, he immediately stated that he really liked working with HA users like that and felt it allows hime to do a better job at meeting their wants and needs.

He then asked it I had looked at colors and types of HAs, I said I was thinking I want RIC with 13 batteries for streaming, and light color to find if dropped. He said we could experiment with domes at fitting to find a balance between occlusion / own voice sound and music. He said he would give me different domes to try as well. I asked if different domes needed different HA settings, he grinned, said “you are informed” and then stated yes, that is why we could experiment during fitting.

He did more tests in this session than I have had before:
1-standard pure tone thresholds in each ear.
2-bone conduction on both sides (I only had 1 at the 3 others, only on one side).
3-word recognition "say the word (two syllable) in each ear.
4-word test with one syllable getting quieter until I could not understand in each ear.
5-most comfortable loudness of tones in each ear.
6-loudness comfort with voice (someone reading until it was too loud) in each ear.
7-someone reading & I could ask for louder / softer until I found the preferred volume level in each ear and then both at once.

He asked about my lifestyle, activities, where I had issues now with hearing now. When I mentioned listening to music now with earbuds 3-6 hours a day he talked about MFI and when I mentioned Android, he pulled a Phone Clip + demo from the cabinet to show me. I asked about sport locks and he said he had noted those due to my active outdoor activities.

He asked why I had come to Costco after the three Audiologist. I said I did not feel that they really listened but were used to people who had no understanding of hearing aids and needed to be told what was best, and did not listen to someone like me who had lots of questions and ideas of what they wanted, rather than being told, “This is what you need.”

He admitted that in his own dispensers years ago he had not said good things about Costco HAs, that the choices were often one or two generations older. He said that now the Costco version were the same generation, and that the aids were locked for Costco brands on non-Costco versioned fitting software. I said that some ENT docs had told me not to go to Costco. He understood, but some now worked closely, referring patients to Costco with the state of the Audiology clinics in the local area.

5 Likes

What @gorgeguy describe sounds comparable to my Costco experience. However, my involvement in seeing 4 audiologists in other practices fit hearing aids has not been impressive. Offering only the Automatic program unless something else is requested seems to be the norm. Costco consistently did bone conduction testing with masking. Not so for the audiologists. Same with REM. My experience with Costco has always been a good solid B. I’m sure there are A class audiologists out there, but I don’t know how one finds them with any regularity. The cost difference is striking.

8 Likes

Firstly the OP’s friend is lucky to have a caring friend come with him to the fitting!
My Costco experiences have been very mixed. There are always differences in personalities but the range in aptitude and care with detail can be striking.
Nothing beats having an effective advocate by your side

My Costco experience was better than my previous 15 year experience with other audiologists. The Audi had a PhD in Audiology, and did an outstanding fitting with equipment that was better than my previous Audi. My KS8’s are serving me very well for two years, now. I guess it depends on the location what you get. I’m very satisfied with Costco, and I think they are doing a good thing to try to make hearing aids more accessible to a wider audience. I know people who need a lot more help in regular maintenance of their aids that I do myself. If someone needs a lot of hand holding to clean wax or minor troubleshooting, then maybe Costco is not the best place, although I do think they will do it.

2 Likes

I thought this was not possible as the Costco part numbers don’t show up in the manufacturers native software?

They don’t show up except when you connect the hearing aids to the hearing aid programmer. Costco’s “locked” hearing aids are Resound and I believe Phillips. Rexton, Phonak and KS9 are unlocked and programmable by anybody with appropriate hardware and software.

3 Likes

The one occasion I purchased from Costco, after talking with a “hearing aid specialist,” I found that they do employ audiologists at specific stores, one of which was near me. I made an appointment, got good second tier Oticon aids that had bluetooth technology, and I used them for three years. No issues with followup visits for adjustments, though scheduling was occasionally an issue. Great warranty and free take back period. I did not use them for the most recent ones as I found a good audiologist in my neighborhood and bought from Ziphearing. Most pleased with them as well on top tier Oticons.

1 Like

I bought 4 pairs of hearing aids at Costco over about a 10 year span, but my current pair of hearing aids were bought outside of Costco, through a private HCP. I was never impressed with the Costco HIS’s, although they did OK. I was not impressed with the latest private HCP either. I’ve gone the DIY route since then and that’s what I’m going to stick with going forward.

2 Likes

Just my pickiness. One cannot buy Oticon hearing aids from Costco. You can buy Phillips hearing aids which are made by Demant, the parent company of Oticon.

Right you are. Mea Culpa. I stand corrected. What I bought was a second-tier product marketed under the name of a Demant subsidiary called Bernafon.

1 Like

I have had two pairs of hearing aids. The first was fit in a stand-alone office. The second was by Costoco. The Costco fitter did a much more thorough exam and explained better what she was doing and why. I have no doubt that there are stand-alone offices that do as well or better than Costco. I’ve also no doubt that Costcos are not as good as others. We all shop around to find the best quality and price on other things, why not hearing aids?

1 Like

I have been trying to tell people this in this forum for a few years now. Many fitters at Costco used to work elsewhere in the store and only possess a dispensers license and are not audiologists. Not to say that you wont get a good fit from a dispenser, many are more conscientious and knowledgeable than some audiologists

1 Like

It’s like everything else. Take your time and do the research

Can we be your neighbor?! That is so nice of you to guide your friend and being so honest with your story. Your rewards will always be richly deserve for what you do!!! Thank you!

@MDB Can you explain this further to a layperson? I bought Kirkland/Resound HA’s from Costco, and after 5 different fittings (in 2 different stores over a period of 3 years) they still bothered me from feedback and harsh distortion in mid-high frequency sounds. Generally tinny sounding. The dinging sound my car makes when the door is open would trigger ringing in the HA’s, and I recorded the car’s sound to reproduce the effect in the store. They didn’t resolve it.
I finally visited a private Audiologist who fitted me with Resound Quattro rechargeables, and I’m ecstatic! There is so much more detail, balance and clarity with these new units. It’s amazing to learn what I’ve been missing.
I’d like to ask the private Aud to reprogram and refit the old ones as backup, but she had said (before I asked) that they’re locked to Costco.
PS- I’m also wondering if the receivers from Costco are genuine Resound, or some generic parts: The wires are much thicker than the new ones that came with the Quattro, and at one point during my Costco fittings they switched receivers and chose the replacements from an unmarked plastic bag.

Costco Resound hearing aids are locked to their software. Costco aids from Phonak and Rexton are not locked. I believe their aids from Phillips are also locked. For their Kirkland aids, it depends who made them. Kirkland 7,8, and 9 are not locked. 5 and 6 were as they were made by Resound. So in short, you’re limited to Costco being able to program those hearing aids. I’m guessing their receivers are genuine Resound but if they’re Kirkland and made by Resound they’d be pretty old (2016 or earlier)