Are Costco's hearing aids outdated?

I was just reading an article that said the reason Costco’s hearing aids are reasonable in cost is because their hearing aids are older and do not carry new technology aids.

Wondering if this is true?

Yes and no. Mostly no. Some models are a previous generation ( year or two max) older. They are still very modern hearing aids. Some models are the same generation as those currently available from audiology practices. Costco aids do not have tinnitus features (largely useless and easy to duplicate anyway). They do not deal with complicated cases where people might need Roger devices or CROS or BICROS.

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Other than being minus a few features, the reason the Costco hearing aids are cheaper is volume. Costco approaches the VA in the number of units purchased and contracted volume discounts account for the difference. Costco also does not pay as well as private practice and as a result, sometimes the practitioner is not as skillful. I know there are many very competent Costco providers but there are also a fair number of duds. That being said, there are a fair number of private practitioners that are duds too. It all boils down to you, the customer, asking the right questions and choosing the provider you have the most confidence in.

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I’ve heard so much positive things about Costco but not sure now, thank you. It’s very hard to choose a good audiologist by just walking in.

I am not so sure I would go to Costco to shop for a audiologist. Most people go there to shop for hearing aids, that will be well fitted to a high standard. They have very good hearing aids that are quite up to date. They do the usual Costco thing where the name of the aids are changed so you cannot easily compare based on name to aids from the same manufacturer away from Costco. And they may not have the latest whiz bang aid that were just released to the market a few weeks ago.

I will give you one example. Their previous KS8 aid was a Rexton, and was essential the same as the top of the line Rexton Emerald 80 aid, and the sister aid from Signia, the 7Nx. At the same time they offered (and still offer) a rechargeable Rexton aid, the Adore Li, that except for the rechargeable part is the same aid as well. Adore is a Costco only aid to keep you from easily comparing. Just a few weeks ago Signia released a new X aid, and Costco does not offer it yet, in the Rexton line. They typically don’t seem to carry Signia.

That is just one example, but other brands are kind of handled the same. The current KS9 is a Phonak Marvel M90, but with no options for recharging or tinnitus masking. The Marvel named aids have had a firmware update and new app, that there is some question about as to when and if the KS9 will get the same.

As far as the fitters, be aware that Costco fitters do not get a commission. Many private clinics do operate on a commission basis. The more they sell at the highest price, the more they make.

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Interesting. My current audiologist works for a hospital and gets paid a salary. I may go in and ask him if they update the software for programming. If not, then I will have to go elsewhere because that’s my problem–programming.
This is funny, any questions I have for him I have to make an appointment just for a quick question. Reason: privacy. All his e-mails from clients go through the hospital, he also cannot take phone calls same thing. And no walk in’s for questions. So he’s asked me not to e-mail or phone.

Wasn’t aware they didn’t do tinnitus or CROS which I may need and seems to be fine.

There’s no harm in going to Costco (except for possible loss of time) as they will tell you if they don’t think they can fit you properly. I don’t see an audiogram so can’t really comment on your loss.

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My experience with audiologists, fitters, HIS has shown Costco to be much better. The fittings and overall help have been much better than any other place we have been.
The aids at Costco are pretty much up to date with most they carry.
For most issues with your aids from Costco you can walk in and get help or answers. If tuning is needed you will need an appointment that may be a week or two wait.
No pressure sales, excellent service and fantastic trial period with 100% money back.
Hard to beat.

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My CostCo has 3 audiologist. One person is a dud, one person is top notch. I’ve not had any interactions with the third. I got plenty of good guidance on here, and swapped which audiologist I was working with. After that, I made sure to make all my appts with the person I prefer.

So as Sierra said it is up to you as customer to ask questions and, if you don’t feel you are getting help, swap audiologist right there within CostCo and try for a better fit of person, as it really does make a difference.

As for the aids, I only know from what I read on here . . . the current CostCo K9 is the Phonak Marvel minus a few features, none of which mattered to me. Investigate, read, research, ask questions on here. This forum is fantastic for info sharing.

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My experience with Costco over a 7 year period was terrific. I bought 2 different HAs! had lots of fittings, got lots of free stuff, and although I am a difficult customer I was always treated very well.

However, my most recent HAs are from a top-notch DrAud and my experience is better. But, way more ecpensive.

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Another feature that the Marvel has that the Costco KS9 doesn’t have is the ability to do remote programming. For me that feature has been invaluable as I’ve been able to sit at my grand piano while my audiologist makes adjustments in real-time and I can instantly test the result of each change on my piano. My Pixel phone sits on my music rack and I can see and hear my audiologist and she can see me and hear what I’m playing. :sunglasses:

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I met one of the top people at Costco hearing centres about 5 years ago. She told me they sell hearing aids at cost as a loss leader. The hearing centres are always at the back of the store to force you to walk past the aisles.

HA users are high in Costco’s consumer profile, generally older people with money to spend who compare prices and want the lowest cost.

A recent Bloomberg story described how Costco is organized with the most exciting and profitable goods by the entrance. We walk past all sorts of goodies like big smart TVs and tablets. Those items have high profit margins and they sell a lot.

Costco keep HA people loyal by selling the best HA batteries at the lowest price. This year I ordered Duracell batteries just to try them. They cost double what Costco did. Duracell come in a cute 4 battery box and don’t last longer and have more duds.

I’m on my 4th pair of hearing aids - it’s great living to old age. 2 from Costco and 2 from a local audiologist. I’ve trial’d from others. With a Costco nearby the choice would be Costco.

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There are lots of stories about how Costco operates. But, they are a publicly traded company, and make no doubt that they are in business to make money. My suspicion is that about the only product sold at a loss and for the purpose of getting customers in the door is the hot dog and pop at the food court for $1.50. From what I know of them, they put all the risk on their suppliers. All their returns go straight back to suppliers for credit. They limit the number of items in an outlet to a very small number compared to say Walmart, and if one new item is brought in, another one has to go out. The reason they start selling Christmas stuff in August or what would seem like a ridiculously early date is that they want to sell out of it well before Christmas. They do not want to do any clearouts at a loss.

On hearing aids, I am sure they are not selling them at a loss, and are making a very good profit on them. I recall an article by Audicus (?) that claimed the factory door cost of a hearing aid was $150. I think that was each. So the cost of their KS9’s would be in the order of $300 at the factory door. Yes, there has to be a factory profit, and distribution cost, but Costco is pretty good at negotiating that down to a minimum. I suspect they make more than normal on hearing aids because they have to pay their staff to be dedicated to that section, but I understand their normal markup is 12%. Must be more on hearing aids. There is a lot of room for more for the manufacturer and for Costco between $300 and $1500. Also there has to be a reason why they give away domes and wax guard kits for nothing, when many others are charging for it. And they have to pay for unlimited fitting session. My guess would be that they are paying something like $1000 a pair for the KS9’s, and put a gross margin of 50% on it.

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Your analysis of hearing aid costs is interesting; however, the facts do not support the conjecture that it costs $150 to make a hearing aid.

I looked at costs from a factual basis using the audited and published financial statements of the hearing aid companies. First, their is reasonably good competition and if the margins at the factory door were as high as you suggest, it would invite competition at lower prices. Some of the chips are developed by indepedent companies that sell to several mfgs. It’s not hard to enter a market and disrupt the market if there are super profits.

There is a huge spread between manufacturing costs and cost at retail. All of the companies overhead, marketing, R&D etc. are still valid costs.

Demant - Oticon, Bernafon, etc - has a gross margin of 77% which is not bad for a manufacturer, giving them an EBITDA ratio of 77% (ratio of earnings to revenue). Apple’s EBITDA is about 15%.
The cost to manufacture a $5,000 pair of hearing aids is about $1,150. The all-in-cost after overheads depreciation and interest is about 91% or $4,150. If Costo is selling them at cost, which is what I was told by someone I know and trust, Demant is cutting somewhere to deliver them to Costco at a lower cost, usually around 50% of an audiologists cost.

The real cost challenge for Demant and other mainline manucturers will be OTC hearing aids and the stready encroachment of Apple into their market. If Apple can develop a self-fitting hearing aid - and they are getting closer - many people who need audiologist fitting will go to Apple. They have market that are tiny compared with Apple.

Think of watches. Apple now sells more smart watches than the Swiss, than any other smart watch manufacturer and their products get better and more feature dense year over year.

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Too many over look the cost of labor. And hearing aids are very labor intensive. Hearing aids for the most part all hand created. I wear ITE ear aids, and they have to be molded to my ear canals, and the parts placed in the mold correctly. And I know from experience that ITE aids the parts will be in different places in the mold due to the size and shape of the mold.

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Here is the Audicus Article. I would bet a lot of money that Costco is not giving away hearing aids at a loss. They are too big a ticket item to take a loss on as a business.

I added the bolding in the above quote. That’s just not true. My Costco here in Colorado is in a pretty high income area. The hearing department is in the front of the store. You can walk in, go past the registers and go straight to it, passing nothing for sale but some vitamins and other health stuff (pharmacy is beside hearing).

As to dated aids - my first sad venture into the hearing aid world was a visit to a private practice where I was fitted with $7,000 aids without realizing the price. My fault for not asking up front, but I had it in my head it would be maybe $3,500, and started ripping the things out of my ears, ready to walk out when I heard the $7,000 figure.

The audi then insisted I go through with the 2-week trial in spite of my saying up front I’d could not afford anything like those aids, and I figured why not. When I returned the aids and mentioned I was going to try Costco, that audi got incensed and told me Costco aids were “years” out of date. Since my regular doctor had recommended Costco and since that audi had previously tried to scare me into the whole thing insinuating I’d soon have dementia if I didn’t go in debt for those aids…

I got Rexton Trax 42s back then and now have the KS9s. If my aids don’t have this year’s latest tweak, but I get something I can afford and decent service without the b.s., well, I’m just fine with that.

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I don’t know why I comment on these sites, perhaps trying to help out with what I know. What’s the purpose of making an ad hominem reply “That’s just not true.” other than to be confrontational.

It’s impolite to take aim at other commenters and say they are telling lies.

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My thought was the same. There is a somewhat standard layout for a Costco, but they do vary. In our Costco the hearing aid area is right at the front but at the opposite side of the store. You have to walk by all the cash registers to get there. And the product aisle that leads to the hearing center, has baby food and diapers. But adding to what @sdpate said, there are also adult diapers, so perhaps that part was planned!!! We’ll sell you something for both ends…

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