Phonak at Costco vs Audiologist

Hello Group,
I am on the fence between getting Phonak Brio 4 at Costco or Naida M 70 at my audiologist.
A negotiated price difference is about $1000 more at Audiologist. Additionally, some say that Brio 4 is more compatible with M 90, which is another $1000 more at my audiologist.

I have been going to audiologists all my life since the age of 7, for 41 years now. I have been with the last audiologist for nearly 15 years. I have never had my HAs fitted at Costco - I admit I am mortified of the unknown.

My (wide net) question to whoever got the Phonak aids at Costco — Are you happy with the quality of Phonak HAs and the quality of service provided?

Thank you in advance

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If price is a consideration, try Costco. You’ve got nothing to lose.
I got KS9s (rebranded Phonak Marvels) at Costco earlier this month. This is my 3rd set of HAs from Costco over the 15-ish years (I had been fitted by different audiologists for my earlier HAs). Costco has only gotten better IMO.
I’m very happy with the KS9s (Phonak “sound” is more comfortable & less sharp sound than ReSound). I’m also happy with the fitter at Costco. I can’t say she had a wealth of experience, but she followed best practices (e.g., REM) to the letter (Costco’s policy) and was very happy to try different adjustments. On-going tweaks are always free (and can be done remotely).
Costco’s prices can’t be beat, the money-back return policy is more than generous and the manufacturer’s warranty for repair/replacement is extended by 2-years if you buy with Costco’s credit card.
If you decide on Costco and have access to multiple stores within reasonable distance, you may find HA appointment availability varies dramatically. At one store, I was wait-listed for an appointment since they were booked for 3-weeks out; at a different Costco I was able to get an appointment the next day.
Good luck!

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PS The Costco fitter had make impressions for ear molds – resultant molds fit perfectly (and cost an extra $39.99 per ear).

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Yes, I am happy with the quality of the hearing aids and the service. In ways, Costco is more thorough than the audiologists I’ve seen. There’s no harm in checking them out.

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While technically I wear hearing aids, I have no hearing loss. I am an Audiologist, and while I don’t fit the criteria you are looking for very well, I think my perspective might be helpful.
I have worked with Phonak for many years and I really like their hearing aids. While it’s true that there is a difference in quality and features between what is sold in Costco and what private hearing professionals sell, the difference is negligible compared to the difference a GREAT hearing professional can make.
Most hearing aid professionals are average and use very similar methods. So, if your choice is between an average Audiologist in a private clinic and an average hearing professional in Costco and the quality isn’t vastly different between the hearing aids, then save yourself some money. Honestly, when taking to clients out of my area I always recommend they visit Costco and make a comparison.
Now the kicker, a GREAT hearing professional is worth any difference in cost. If you buy identical hearing aids from an average vs a GREAT hearing provider, the difference in your performance and outcomes will be astounding. Don’t settle for average unless you have no other option, in that case save some money.

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How do you identify an outstanding Audi? In the legal world you ask a good lawyer you know, or use the Martindale ratings. As an employment attorney I was often asked for referrals to corporate, family, and even criminal lawyers, and could refer to those at the top of the field.

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For first-time HA buyers, I highly recommend Costco, it’s what I did when I bought my first pair. As a second-time buyer though, I am buying elsewhere. Actually I’ve read (here?) that only 25-30% of Costco HA wearers return for their 2nd HAs, so this is apparently not an uncommon thing.

The principal reason for me is that I need more timely access to care than I’ve been able to get at Costco. Yes, I will be paying through the nose for this privilege, but fortunately I have the means and I’m willing to do so. Of course the new guy could turn out to be a problem too, but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.

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My first pair were fitted by a private hearing aid center. I thought they were OK and took good care of me. After hearing about Costco pricing in posts here, I decided to give them a try. Not only were the KS8s at least as good as what I got from the center, they were about half the price. To top it off, the fitter did way more testing than was done at the center. Give Costco a try. If the worst happens you return your aids and go elsewhere.

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Everyone -
Thank you for taking the time to respond to my question.
You gave me a lot of valuable information and confidence to go forward with Costco.
I scheduled an appointment with them next week :slight_smile:
Yes, I will be saving a considerable $$, can go to different Costcos in my neighborhood (there are many in suburban Chicago) if one fitter is not to my liking, and finally, I can always refund the HAs in absolutely worst case scenario, but I am hopeful it won’t come to that.
Thanks again for your huge support!

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As a retired provider, prior practice owner and also 8 years as a Practice Development consultant for a major manufacturer I may have a slightly different perspective. My friend and neighbor has been wearing hearing aid for over 60 years. I started taking care of him in 1983. After retiring and no longer getting hearing aids at wholesale I suggested he try Costco. I went with him for an after fitting adjustment. I pronounced the service “adequate” but a couple of months later he told ;me he had been back three additional times for adjustment (180 miles round trip) and they still were not balanced and he heard better with his old ones. Fortunately I had the current Phonak software on my computer and told him to come on over. 20 minutes later he was hearing good and happy. I now reverse my judgement of Costco to “inadequate”. There is no excuse for a patient to spend the time and money for three 180 mile trips and still not have them adjusted properly. Being an experienced user he was able to tell the fitter what the problem was, but the fitter was unable to take what was said and make the appropriate adjustments. You will save money up front with Costco but you may just get what you pay for. One of my old rancher patients told me years ago that “Buying hearing aids is just like buying oats - if you want good clean quality oats, you pay a fair market price. If you want cheaper oats, you can buy them when they have been through the horse once already”.
Granted there are different skill levels in the Costco providers, but I am certain there are many Costco hearing aid patients who are not hearing as good as they should and don’t know any better. Another thought for you is that Phonak is in Aurora and Warrenberg just outside Chicago. I believe they trial fittings for research at the plant. You may want to check that out.

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I would agree with you that one can find more competent fitters/audiologists than Costco has, but it ain’t easy and there’s no clear way to go about doing it. I’ve seen several audiologists outside of Costco and none of them impressed me as being clearly superior to Costco. If one can find a truly special audiologist or hearing aid fitter, I’d agree that it’s worth paying a premium.

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When you don’t know what you’re looking for in an outstanding hearing provider, you will never find one. Let me help…
First, you are probably not looking into hearing aids because you don’t hear beeps very well, right? What you really need is improved SPEECH understanding. Make sure that your Provider actually tests with speech. And that they do before and after speech testing.
Important note: Do not ask if they do speech testing, rather ask them what testing they will do and why. If they don’t volunteer that they do before and after speech testing, then walk away!!! A Provider isn’t excellent if you have to teach them how to help you!
You want someone who is very knowledgeable about hearing and hearing aids in general. Additionally, you want someone who knows EVERYTHING about the hearing aids they are most comfortable with. I mean, they should know every nook and cranny of those hearing aids; both the hardware and the software.
I would ask the Provider “what hearing aids would you recommend and why?” I honestly don’t care which brand they prefer, most Providers have a preference of brand, what I care about is the “why”. Why do they like those aids. What makes them a better fit for you than any other aid? If they can’t answer that, then walk away!
You want someone that understands that changing one of your 5 senses isn’t as easy as snapping your fingers. It takes time and follow through. Essentially, your Provider is going to help you re-wire your brain to work better with your ears. You need to make sure this person knows how to do that.
I would ask “Tell me what is involved with getting my hearing as good as possible.” If they don’t mention that it will take some time and you should have several follow up sessions, then walk away!

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Enoch, Thank you very much. I’m speaking on this topic soon and will include your excellent advice.

I think this is a broad generalization. I don’t think that Costco has any more inadequate fitters then the general market place. I have used 7 fitters or Audiologist in my hearing aid lifetime. Three were outside of Costco and 2 were good and 1 terrible. At Costco, 3 were good and one was not. The first one I had at Costco had a Doctor of Audiology degree. I have used the Senior Technician at my Costco for about 3 years. He has 13 years of experience. I drive past a closer Costco to get to my fitter. Not all have this level of experience. Soon Costco will offer basic adjustments online as well. Thing is, if you find a good one stay with them. Patients should try to help the fitter by explaining to them what they are hearing. Show them the settings on your app so they can see what you are doing to try to make your hearing aids do for you to give them a better idea where to make adjustments. It is a 2 way street. Since Costco doesn’t handle the Phonak aids I want, looks like I will shop on the open market. Hope I get someone with your level of experience.

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I am also wrestling with Phonac Brio 4 at Costco ($2500) versus my audiologist deal on Widex Moment 440 for $3200. I have a profound hearing loss at high frequency, and have worn Siemens hearing aids for 5 years and 2 months (they are getting worn out.)
My audiologist has told me that Costco’s hearing aids are not at the Signia level 7 premium or Phonac level 90 premium. I am not sure if that is true.
Can somebody with great experience provide me with some insight to help with a purchase decision please? Thanks.

With the information you’ve given, I’d go with the Brio 4 (or perhaps even the KS9 ($1500) depending on your loss) Both the Brio 4 and KS9 have the equivalent of Sound Recover 2, a frequency lowering algorithm which does a good job of lowering high frequencies down to a level that is audible. It often takes tweaking. That said, $3200 is a good deal for the Moment 440s if you really like the audiologist.

Would you say that the Brio 4 is NOT at a level M90? Only at say a level M50 or M70.

My audiologist is adamant that Costco’s hearing aids are not at the highest quality level of Phonak, Widex, or Signia. Thanks.

If you compare features side by side, the Brio 4 is very close to level M90. They have different cases. They don’t have tinnitus features. They aren’t available in rechargeables and certain battery sizes. They’re also not the latest model, being more similar to Marvel than Paradise. However, they are still great hearing aids. I’d be more impressed with your audiologist if they were trying to sell you on their vast experience and knowledge fitting hearing aids rather than trying to knock Costco hearing aids.

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This audiologist is not nearly as good as my previous guy, who retired.
She initially had me 3 day trial the Signia Pure 7x, for a buy price of $4195. When I met with her today, to stop the trial, and told her it was beyond the budget, the Widex Moment 440 was her best deal price, as she did not move down on the Signia Pure cost.
I am going to Costco tomorrow. It was almost like she sensed that, when I didn’t jump and buy the Widex. That is when she stated that Costco’s products are not at the premium level of the Signia that I trialed, or the Widex. I am trying to ascertain how correct that statement is, but frankly that negativity is somewhat of a turnoff to me, as a long time salesman. My wife and I are Costco shoppers, and I also own their stock, and the return policies and business model is a strong one, as a loyal customer. But I have no experience with their HA department, and understand the varying degree of fitter expertise and capabilities can vary greatly from store to store.
I am a long time salesman - but have little knowledge of HA’s per se. I had two quality issues with the Siemen product I have worn for over 5 years, and the first one was covered 100% by their warranty.
I find this forum so helpful. The difference of $700 in cost is not a big deal for me, but I am going into Costco tomorrow with an open mind, and the fitter there is supposedly very experienced.
I also know little about the Widex Moment 440 product, but recognize that the audiologist was truthful that $3200 is a great bargain price.

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I ended up buying ReSound at Costco for $2700. The fitter is named Sam at the Costco San Juan Capistrano store. He had his own business up until 2008, and has been with Costco ever since. A 30+ year guy, extremely knowledgeable and professional, degree in electrical engineering. This store was #18 in the Costco USA ranking of hearing aid departments in 2019, and they were #1 in 2020! The ranking is based on a number of factors including sales, return rate, capture rate, etc.

I feel unbelievably lucky, and was shocked when he showed me their rating system. He feels the ReSound Preza product is the best for me, and their app looks great. I am used to 312 batteries rather than rechargeable, so ordered that product.

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