Costco vs a private audiologist, my experience

#1

I know others have given their feedback, I just wanted to share my experience as it might have a piece or two of new information.

Long and painful story a bit shorter, I’ve worked with a private audi for 5 years now. Went from Siemens Pure Micons and Binaxes to the Resound Linx 3Ds. Seemed like she did a good job and I referred some of my clients to her.

Then my Linx 3Ds started having issues. We’d send them back to Resound for warranty repair, get them back, issues would resurface. In the meantime, I never felt like I was hearing great with these instruments, which frustrated me. After 3 rounds of sending these back and still not having the issue fixed, I got so frustrated that I went to Costco and went through a hearing test and fitting session and got a pair of Resound Vida 8s. The Costco folks were adamant, they do NOT like the Kirkland 8s, say they have a lot of issues and returns with them and that I would not like them.

I was very impressed with the Costco process, liked that they did REM during the fitting and I felt like we got a pretty good solution. My plan was to wear these and if I really liked them, get the Linx3Ds back one more time and then just sell them on ebay to help pay for the Vida 8s. I was reasonably satisfied with how I heard in these and I thought they did a better fitting job than my audiologist had done, who had never bothered to do REM even though it turns out she has the equipment to do it.

Then Resound made a generous offer, to swap my problematic Linx 3Ds for new Quattro 9s (battery powered, not rechargeable). They wanted two of their sales reps sitting in on the fitting session and one of their top remote audis on the phone seeing my audi’s computer screen and running the fitting. Awesome.

Now, I’d told my audi that I’d gone to Costco to get these other instruments simply because my Siemens backups weren’t letting me hear well and I really needed iphone connectivity. I also mentioned that I really liked that they did REM and asked if she could do that when fitting the Quattros. Apparently her ego didn’t like that question one bit. I’ll spare the details but when I showed up for the Quattro fitting session things got interesting.

Now, a side note. There’s some debate about just how advanced are the aids sold at Costco. I had the opportunity to ask one of their regional sales managers face to face about this. He said no, Costco does NOT get the same most advanced tech that private audis get. He said the Vida 8s were comparable to the Linx3D 7s, so better than the base Linx 3D model but not as advanced as the Linx 3D 9s, and not even close to the Quattros. He said they always keep Costco a generation behind.

Anyway, the fitting session was a train wreck. My audi was incredibly rude and unprofessional to the point I’ll never work with her again. She was obviously butthurt that I went to Costco and then had the temerity to ask if she’d also do REM. It was crazy. Her office manager who sat in on the session texted me afterwards to apologize. The Resound reps were appalled and made that clear privately afterwards by email.I came away with a basic fitting and was hearing pretty well, but asked the reps for a referral to an audi who specialized in Resound that they liked. They gave me the name of someone and I went to their shop last week.

Wow, that was the best fitting session I ever had. A somewhat unique hearing test, more streamlined but effective than the standard one I got both at costco and my prior audi, then the REM portion was great. He took the time to really explain what the data meant and put a strategy together for modifying the gain in certain frequencies to optimize hearing without compression or feedback issues. He also switched out my domes for power domes and explained why based on the data. The result is between his fitting expertise and these Quattros, I’m hearing the best I’ve ever heard with hearing aids. And music, oh my. It’s a joy to listen to again.

So a few takeaways:

  • The Costco experience was a very good one. They do NOT have the same, most advanced tech as a private audi can access but they do a terrific fitting and they’re well trained and caring. If you can’t afford $5,000 - $6,000, they’re a great option I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend. My Vida 8s were $2500 for the pair.

  • I will never use an audi again who doesn’t incorporate REM into the fitting session. Period. But I also understand it’s not the end all/be all. But it IS a very useful tool in the hands of a knowledgeable audi.

  • If you can afford the dough, you’re going to get a better hearing experience working with an experienced audi and getting the latest tech. Is it better enough to justify spending double or more versus Costco? That’s something the individual has to decide. Costco gives you 6 months to trial your new aids, so that’s awesome. A reasonable strategy might be to try those out, then try demos of the newest stuff from a private audi and see which ones let you hear better. If it’s the private audi stuff, return the Costco aids for a refund and away you go. If they sound comparable, you just saved a lot of money.

Anyway, there you have it. Happy to answer any questions.

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#2

I think that’s a very fair report. The only caveat I’d add is that there’s no guarantee that you’re going to easily find an experienced audiologist that you like. You “batted” .500 with a recommendation from Resound, but many people go through multiple audiologists and still don’t find somebody they like.

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#3

The answer you get from the reps depends on whose office you are standing in.

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#5

MDB…I actually batted .333. My very first audi back about 7 years ago was fresh out of school, worked for the doctor who diagnosed my hearing loss. Put me with his audi and she set me up in Oticon Duals. One general piece of advice I now have is never work with an audi who works for an ear doc. For several reasons. First, if he has a patient who needs the audi’s time, your time will get pre-empted, every time. Second, they usually have access to a more limited range of instruments. She specialized in Oticons. Find an audi who carries at least 3 major brands and demo them all before plunking down $6,000. I thought she was good until I found audi #2, who was better. So because she was better than the first one I figured she was a home run. Nope.

Now I’ve found someone I like a LOT. Now, it’s possible I like him a lot because he looks better in comparison to audi #2, just like she did in comparison with audi #1. But I’ve become more educated along the way and I can see what the first two audis should’ve done but never did. Audi #3 is doing a fantastic job of using the tools an audi has available AND at really listening to me, understanding my hearing challenges and situations and matching my very unique audiogram to the tools.

One thing he said I found fascinating, every manufacturer has different philosophies on how to help customers hear better. Every device is a bundle of technology and trade offs. Know what strategies a mfg used to accomplish certain aspects of improved hearing helps him optimize the fit for that client. They fit mostly Resounds, primarily because he likes how they handle compression and feedback much better than other instruments, but he will use different fitting techniques when working with Oticons or Signias, for example.

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#6

Another option, if available in your area, is to look into a local university that has an audiology program or hearing clinic. Perhaps not all of them offer services to outside clients, but many do. A year ago, I got my last pair at one such clinic. Great service. YMMV of course. I got a pair of the latest high-end Signia 7px CIC for around 30% less than private clinics. It was still a bit pricier than Costco’s top end models (by maybe 20%), but at least I had the latest tech with more features available to me.

Only potential caveat going this university route is that you’ll probably have a student or two sit in with the audiologist professor during testing and fittings. Didn’t bother me personally though as I don’t mind helping students learn.

My last pair of CIC aids were purchased at my local Costco about 6 years ago. I didn’t have any major trouble with the devices or the staff. But as time went on, they got super busy, and appointment wait times grew to almost 2 months. Even if I wanted a simple adjustment, it would be weeks before I could see someone. When I did finally get in for an appointment, everything just seemed rushed. Unacceptable since I (and most people) require hearing aids to function at work and at home.

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