Unimpressive Costco experiences, and other first-time HA shopping experiences

I’m a hearing aid “newbie”, looking for first-time hearing aids, after my hearing has been gradually deteriorating over the last several years.
I have a long story about my experiences with Costco’s Hearing Centers and some other options I’m looking into. Hoping this might help anyone else who is new to this Hearing Aid search and exploring where to be evaluated.

After reading in these forums about the benefits of using Costco’s Hearing Aid Centers, I decided to start there to have my hearing tested and check out their options.

I have 2 Costco’s that are both within 10-15 miles from my home, so I set up an appt at one of these (Costco #1), and showed up for a hearing test and screening for hearing aids.

Costco #1:
The Hearing Aid Dispenser that I met there seemed friendly and knowledgeable.
Their equipment and facility also seemed very high tech and very noise-shielded.

The dispenser started by looking in my ears with a scope/camera.
Unfortunately, he immediately told me that he was going to be unable to perform a hearing test on me, because of wax buildup that I would need to have cleaned/removed before I could be tested.
I was a bit surprised, because I’ve never had much of a problem with wax in my ears previously.
He showed me on the video monitor what he was looking at. I had a hard time seeing any wax… it looked like a very clear view through to my eardrum.
But he pointed out a very thin and dark ring around a portion of my ear canal, and said that this was wax that had probably built up over the course of many years.
He said that there was too much risk that when they put the probes into my ears (it looked like they used a foam pad that fills the ear canal to block outside sounds, with a center insert for a sound probe through the pad where the sound would be injected), that some wax could get dislodged and pushed further into my ear canal.
He showed me similar images in both of my ears… a very thin dark ring was around the edge of portions of my ear canal in both ears, even though there was nothing that looked like wax and there was a clear view to my eardrum in both ears.

When I asked who could perform such a cleaning, he gave me a card for a technician at a hearing facility several miles away.

After leaving disappointed, I then tried to call the facility that he referred me to, to find out what the cost would be and possibly make an appointment to have my ears cleaned.
The technician he referred me to wasn’t there, but I spoke to his “medical receptionist”. She seemed to not know what I was talking about in needing to have my ears cleaned. She kept asking about an insurance plan I might have, and told me that although they could schedule a cleaning, she had no idea how much it would cost, and I’d have to call back the next week to talk to their billing department. Apparently getting referrals for ear cleaning from Costco wasn’t a normal thing for this facility.

Home town “Hearing Center” / Audiologist office
I then found another “Hearing Center” in my home town, called them and made an appointment to have my ears cleaned. They told me they could do this for a $40 charge.

When I went into the local Hearing Center, an Audiologist first looked in my ears so they could be sure what needed to be done.
She told me that my ears were “about as clean” as anyone’s she’d seen before, and she would recommend against doing anything to clean them further. The risk of nicking the ear canal and possibly complicating things was greater than any need for cleaning there could possibly be.
She didn’t understand how anyone would possibly suggest they needed to be cleaned to have my hearing tested. She also said they would clean them if I signed a waiver acknowledging that they recommended against it.
So I decided NOT to have them do a cleaning. Instead, I agreed to have this Hearing Center perform their own complimentary hearing test and evaluation, as they are also in the business of selling, fitting, and supporting hearing aids. Of course from some initial research I knew that any hearing aids they would sell me would likely be very expensive.

So I had my hearing tested by the Audiologist at the local Hearing Center. She performed a thorough test, and gave me a quote for her recommendation for hearing aids for me, with a $6500 price tag for a pair of Oticon Alta 2’s. I received the audiogram test results from this complimentary test, and told her I would consider their quote, but wouldn’t be making an immediate decision.

I didn’t want to jump at this expensive an option, so even though I hadn’t had a cleaning done, I decided to try the Costco Hearing Center at the “other” nearby Costco store… I called them and set up an appointment there.

Costco #2
At the 2nd Costco, I didn’t mention my experience at the 1st Costco, thinking that if I told them what they had told me about needing my ears cleaned, they might be more likely to reject me for the same reason.
I was less impressed by the Costco Hearing Aid Center facility at the 2nd store… It didn’t look like they had the same “high tech” setup. It also didn’t seem to have the same sound shielding as the 1st facility I had visited. The Hearing Aid Dispenser that saw me at this 2nd store took a quick look in my ears, and said “Great! Your ears are very clean”. I asked if it looked good to go ahead and test my hearing, and was told “Yes, no problem”. I decided not to go through the story of the first Costco facility, and went forward with having a hearing test done there.

She put the inserts with the sound probes into my ears, checked that they were “snug”. She had a microphone that she spoke into through which I was supposed to hear her voice, as the inserts should be blocking most of the outside sound.
What I immediately noticed was that it didn’t seem like the inserts were blocking much outside sound at all. I could still here shuffling papers, and even before she turned on her microphone I had no problem hearing her voice. This only seemed mildly strange at the time.
Then, she turned on her mic and started talking to me, and asked if I could hear her clearly through the probes. But I told her it seemed I was only hearing her through the outside sound (fairly clearly), and not at all through the microphone and probes. I started to get more and more worried about whether going to this facility was a good decision, as she spent the next several minutes fooling with her controls and software, and trying to get it so I could hear her through the ear probes. Finally it did sound like she had it adjusted so that I was getting a faint sound through the probes, although I was still hearing outside sounds well also.

So she began the hearing test at this 2nd Costco facility. It seemed to be a very thorough procedure, with right ear tones, left ear tones, test of behind-the-ear hearing through “bone” conduction, word recognition, measurement of a “comfortable” volume range, etc. However, during the test, as I told her, I was still hearing sounds coming from outside the booth I was in. This included, during audiogram testing of my right ear, a loud rumbling as the air conditioning came on in their facility, and continued to rumble during much of my right ear testing.

When she showed me the results of the test, they were significantly different from the results I had received from the Audiologist at the Hearing Center in my hometown. They were worse at all frequencies from the Costco center. At high frequencies, they were probably only 5 dB different, which didn’t seem significant. But the low frequencies were 10-15dB worse in my left ear, and 25 dB worse in my right ear, than the results I had received from the Audiologist test.
I asked her if she thought everything was calibrated correctly, and she gave me an “of course” response, but it didn’t seem there was much thought behind this. It wasn’t clear she even knew what calibration means.

As you can imagine, I was then unsure what test results could be trusted, but especially suspicious of the Costco test results.

ConnectHearing option
I’ve since gone on to get a 3rd hearing test performed at a “ConnectHearing” facility about 20 miles from my home. I decided to go there, to a) get a 3rd opinion on a hearing test, and b) take advantage of their “2 week trial”. I’m currently trying the Phonak Audeo V70’s that were recommended by the Dispenser at that facility. Although I like them so far, I have nothing yet to compare them to, and their price quote is also very expensive (they are quoting me a little over $5K for a pair). So I doubt I will be purchasing from there.
The hearing test that was done at the ConnectHearing facility agreed closely (+/- 5dB, generally), with the results from my original Audiologist-performed test at my hometown Hearing Center.

Costco Conclusions
So from all of this, what I can say of my Costco experiences are:
a) They are extremely inconsistent from one Costco facility to another;
b) They won’t necessarily accurately test your hearing;
c) They may feed you a “line” about needing your ears cleaned (maybe he just wanted some free time that day instead of going through with my screening?)

After all of that, I still have a desire to try Costco’s hearing aids (probably a Rexton Trax 42), so I may go to a 3rd Costco facility (there is another about 25 miles from my home), and see if they will either accept the hearing test from a non-Costco facility or perform their own test, because I absolutely don’t trust the test that was performed at Costco #2.

Other alternatives I"m exploring
I’ve also contacted Choice Hearing Aid Providers… If I decide that I really like these Phonak Audeo V70s, I may purchase from them, because the price their will be about 60% of the quote I got from ConnectHearing. The downside of that is their nearest “local” audiologists that would do the fitting are 1 hour to 90 minutes from my home… so not exactly local.

So I’m still exploring… just wanted to share my experiences so far.

You can find HA pricing for certain brands/models through TruHearing.com

good way to know if you’re getting a good price from private audiologist

just remember with TruHearing not all of the perks are the same

japple, Aren’t TruHearing prices only for if you qualify for their ‘Choice’ or ‘Select’ plans through your health insurance?

Yes, I think they try their best so you do qualify.

Can’t hurt to look and add the info to your research.

There are other third parties out there so at least with TruHearing they show pricing for a lot of popular HAs. I’ve read where people on here say that some Audi’s will price match or compete on pricing too.

i had a decent experience at Costco so I went with them. Mainly b/c of the hours, trial period, and cost. My expectations were low and realistic for the extent of my loss. The HAs help but they are not a miracle cure by any means


connect hearing is owned by sonova which owns phonak. of course they are going to recommend phonaks.

You should copy your message or copy the link and then contact the Costco concierge service and ask them to refer the info to the regional manager for that area. Costco is very customer oriented and would like to hear your experience.

Thanks for the reply.
Can you summarize why you think the Trax 42 is better than the Phonak V70? I don’t doubt it, I’d just like to hear some reasons they’re preferable.
Also thanks for pointing out Hearing Revolution.

Thanks, KenP,
I’d like to work with Costco, and I’ll try this.

You might start with the store manager…

Connect hearing does a price match so you can get them at same price Costco is selling them

That has been my experience with Costco as well. Inconsistent. Some are GREAT, but some are AWEFUL. But honestly, the same could be said about the private practices. Just a couple of thoughts… Hearing aids are not like cell phones. Some work better than others. Any of them require a fitter who know what they are doing and how to verify the results. It always bugs me when people say, “A hearing aid should never cost more than…” because you don’t know what the costs of operating a business are in areas other than your own and you don’t know necessarily know what kind of expenses that fitter has. I just bought a practice from a guy who said, “Hearing Aids should never cost more than $4200/pair.” And a lot of people spent $4200/pair with him. And they are all wearing the cheapest Starkey hearing aids they could get and they are all very disappointed with the results. So now they have a negative opinion about the capabilities of hearing aids. But when I put the best hearing aids on them, they start crying because they are understanding so well…

Hearing aid business from large to small are closing down all the time trying to sell based on low price. Why? Because the customers do not come back a second time. Why? Because they don’t provide either the same quality of products OR the same quality of service. In my market, I am the highest priced practice, but my patients are the happiest. 5 practices have closed down in the last 2 years that were all “low price” options. So ALL of their patients who were left are unhappy. HearUSA filed for bankruptcy and they were nationwide partner of AARP… You would think that would be a gold mine. But their model of “discounted” hearing aids DOESN’T WORK in the long run. It costs what it costs to run a successful practice.

Quality of service is the big variable that isn’t solved by prices – high or low.

What I got about the clinic you cited is that he was charging roughly $1000 more for entry level product than the normal going rate.

Price is also the problem the industry has by not attracting the 70% of estimated users with a need.

The evil hearing aid manufacturers exist simply to empty the pockets of the great unwashed.

Sir, I agree with your above statement 100%! “These people” could make more money by lowering their prices and attracting more customers. Not everyone can afford $6000 every 3 years for these things.

But then our hero Costco steps in between the exploited sheep and the vicious profit hungry manufacturers and predatory private practices, raises a hand of warning and says STOP!! THESE EXORBITANT PRICES WILL GO NO FURTHER!! And while you’re trying out your new aids in our store wander around and check the fabulous prices we have on our other great products like slacks from Laos, shirts and sweaters from Sri Lanka and our full line of sport shoes from Viet Nam. And be sure to check out all our great appliances from China.

“These people” could make more money by lowering their prices and attracting more customers.

And you know this how? You’ve taken into account the costs of the research and development required to stay on top of advancing technologies and keep ahead of the competition? You know all the operating costs of each the companies? Payroll? Marketing? Facilities? You’re on top of the taxes and licensing required in each of the markets they’re in? You know the operating costs of the private clinics including the absolutely obscene costs of college and graduate school?

Good thread, I worked with my local HIS to get the prices down to a point where we are both okay with it. A little higher than Costco, but I got the Phonak Audeo V90’s.

Of course, we don’t know all of costs involved. My point is simply this: There is such a vast difference in what the consumer is charged for aids that appear almost equal in value, it causes me to suspect the “costs” are inflated in some cases.

We’ll never have a full picture of the the industry. But there have been some pretty good guesstimates. With using buying groups to lower cost it looks like the premium aid runs from 100% to 150% markup – best case. The gotcha is their volume. This can make a simple clinic vary from failing to nicely profitable. That’s the business model.

Costco has lower cost and reflect their pricing in savings to the consumer. Talking to their people I have found that they regularly provide added training to their team. Evidently, that is to try to have a minimal standard. As we recognize they have good and not so – consistent with the industry as a whole.

Many clinics have a limited clientele. Cosotco seems much busier. Why? Well, price certainly is a factor. But they also have a large walk-by group as they have traffic equal to a good super market. They also have an assistant that does not fit but can answer the questions of passing shoppers. Costco enjoy customer loyalty more than almost any other retail operator. It natural for many with loss to inquire. There fitting rooms at mine are always full.

When I turned 65, I started getting mail which seems the typical promotion vehicle by clinics. They typically offer some great deal. They read like an infomercial. I didn’t trust a word. I visited a clinic operator. They tested me and fitted me with aids and quoted $3200. That was it. No real discussion of my loss or even info about the features. I left dissatisfied.

Look at the person who has aids and their clinic closes or they move. Visit the local clinic and you get the bum’s rush. “We only service what we sell.” is the typical response. Here is a future customer and they drive them away. This is even though they could at least cover part of their cost by selling them their service for a reduced but still as somewhat profitable transaction.

There is no other industry that I am aware of has such a slip-shod business plan.

The response above makes more sense than anything have read! (That includes what I was trying to say!)