A complete review: Is buying hearing aids from Costco worth trying?

Outside view of the Costco shopping center

Introduction

Rise in the popularity of purchasing hearing aids from Costco

Costco is known for bulk shopping and low prices across North America.  It has a different business model than other grocery stores or food stores in that it leverages memberships for exclusive shopping rights. America’s popular grocery store has become one of the favourite places, not only for the food court’s pizza or hot dog, but Costco has increasingly become the place to buy hearing aids. 

If you have been wearing hearing aids for over twenty years, going to the grocery store to buy one of the most expensive things you can own, next to your car and house, may perplex you. 

Everything you know about the hearing care industry and where to buy hearing aids is at odds with what you’ve been told. People new to the hearing care industry and needing hearing aids don’t have a history of experience buying hearing aids. They may have little concern about the institutions behind selling hearing aids. They just know that they need a hearing aid, and they find any place that sells them. Meanwhile, those with a history of using audiologists are left questioning: Is all this right?

Purpose of the article: Analyzing and understanding Costco hearing aid reviews

This article will explain everything you need to know to shop at retail locations like Costco. We’ll review what it’s like to purchase hearing aids at Costco. You’ll understand the pros and cons of buying hearing aids at Costco. We’ll help you decide if you still want to continue doing what you’ve done in the past or try something new and head over to Costco to consider as a stop in your path to purchasing your next hearing aids.

The Costco Advantage

Cost-effective solutions for hearing loss

There’s no doubt that Costco is synonymous with low prices.  At Costco, you can buy more quantities (warehouse-style) cheaper than if you buy smaller quantities or sizes like at other mainstream stores. 

However, when it comes to hearing aids, we’re not buying in bulk, yet Costco has still managed to keep the price low. So how do they do this?

Costco doesn’t make hearing aids, but it has the advantage of directly buying in bulk from manufacturers and distributing them to over 800 stores worldwide.  

On the other hand, a hearing clinic is usually a small business that may have one or a handful of locations to serve hearing aids. So buying bulk is not cost-effective, especially given the number of customers they can serve and how quickly hearing aid models and styles change,

The discount pricing that Costco provides for hearing aids works when they are not just selling hearing aids. The cost to run the hearing aid side of the business is distributed among the food court, electronics, groceries, furniture and much more. There are more items to mark up and sell at a profit than just hearing aids.

For a hearing clinic, it is the opposite. There are just a few services that can charge extra, like a hearing test, hearing aid repairs, batteries and other assistive devices. But they have the same bills and taxes to pay to run a business.

If you ever want to get low-priced hearing aids, your best bet is to choose stores or clinics that do more than fit and sell hearing aids. These stores or clinics offer other services to offset business costs.

Costco services cover the following:

  • Hearing test
  • Repairs
  • Loaner hearing aids
  • Unlocked hearing aids (to allow repairs outside of Costco)
  • Custom ear molds

Comprehensive selection of hearing aid models 

Costco doesn’t cheap out and offers hearing aids unfamiliar to our community. They don’t stock hearing aids that look like they belong to an infomercial on TV from the 80s. While not all hearing aid models are available at Costco, they offer other brands you might not expect to see. 

Costco presents itself better than those hearing aid manufacturers that set up hearing clinics in your community and only offer you a limited selection, usually only their brands. With Costco, you are going to a wide selection and variety of hearing aid brands, not all owned by the same parent company. 

Costco may not carry Starkey, Widex, Resounds, and Signia brands. These hearing aid manufacturers are competitors setting up their hearing clinics in your neighbourhood.

Costco typically offers modern brands like Jabra, Lexie, Rexton, Phonak/ Kirkland or Philips. As more of your mainstream sound electronic companies, like TV, stereo and other devices, get into the hearing aid business, Costco will be most likely to sell them because these new and emerging hearing aids will present easy connective pairing to a suite of electronics, which will be available in the store as well. Something that hearing clinics can’t do with their business model.

Will bundle electronic + hearing aid packaging be a thing of the future?   

Professional expertise and support

Costco workers are not ear doctors or ears, nose, or throat (ENT) specialists. They are hearing aid dispensers and hearing instrument specialists, and some may have audiologists. They have enough qualifications to fit someone with a hearing aid. 

Suppose one should experience any connections to diseases or health issues or the possibility of an underlying illness showing up as symptoms of hearing loss. In that case, it will not be discovered in a place like Costco.

Like not all sales associates at an eye store reach the highest level of the eye profession, they know enough to get you the right prescription glasses or contact lenses. 

Like an eye test, an ear test provides a prescription. Costco staff are trained to conduct an ear test and fit hearing aids well. With the availability of technologies, fitting hearing aids is less complicated for audiologists or other staff. Compare this to the days when analog hearing aids were manually fitted, dialling clockwise or counterclockwise using a mini-screwdriver on your hearing aids. 

Your comfort level of hearing depends on your brain’s capacity to hear, and that’s why someone with nearly the same hearing test could have completely different hearing experiences.

Accessibility and convenience 

Costco is available in most communities. The convenience of the Costco brand makes their hearing center accessible. 

Costco offers weekend hours that help busy professionals. It is hard to lose income or hours when you must make multiple visits. It is not enjoyable when you must take away from your salary, vacation or sick days to make appointments. Costco opens on Saturdays and Sundays, which can benefit those who prefer not to miss work. 

Also, when you have repair needs, you have a place that you can visit with convenience without having to deal with only weekday hours.

This doesn’t apply to people who live in very rural areas. Costco and other independent hearing clinics may not be available in populations with less than 2000 people, so they may not have access to or convenience to purchase hearing aids at all.

Warranty and Guarantees

Costco makes hearing aid shopping easier than ever before. The probability of getting the best fit for hearing aids at the first visit and try is not uncommon. While some hearing aid clinics may offer one-month to ninety-day returns, Costco does further with 180-day returns. 

When you are working especially, or it is inconvenient to make weekly appointments to revisit or adjust your hearing aids to make improvements, a warranty that is less than three months doesn’t give you enough time to decide if you should continue with your hearing aids or try something else. 

Costco also provides hearing aid replacements and repairs. The repairs may extend the usual five-year mark, but most clinics refuse to repair hearing aids over the five-year life.  Costco also provides the manufacturer’s defect warranty. Costco’s warranty and guarantees are much better than those of hearing clinics.

Unpacking Costco Hearing Aid Reviews

Online platforms and forums as valuable sources

Many people with hearing loss share their experience purchasing hearing aids at Costco in online groups. Overall, there are rarely any bad reviews on Costco in general. 

Common themes in customer reviews

Affordability and value for money

People who want to save money often choose Costco as their best choice. For some people on a low income, hearing aids become optional outside of the expenses covering their food and housing. Low-income individuals have options to buy hearing aids because of Costco’s price. Not everyone can afford a private clinic.

Some want to manage their money well and save a few thousand, especially if they want to invest or save money for their emergency fund. Others want to lower prices because they would rather buy things cheaper.

Performance and effectiveness 

Hearing aid brands matter

People’s experiences with hearing aid performance often depend on the brand of hearing aids and ear molds, not the store itself. 

Some people can switch hearing aid brands often, while others experience difficulties adjusting to the new sound unique to each brand. Hearing aids work with your brain; sometimes, that sound is too annoying and exhausting to hear. 

Those who switched from a hearing clinic with an ENT and audiologist have seen improved hearing experiences after trying out different brands offered at Costco. 

If you go to a hearing clinic with incentives to sell some brands, you never know what hearing aids will make a huge difference to the sound quality and your daily life. For those of us who have had hearing loss for many years, we probably tried most hearing aid brands, if not all. As we age, we know which ones give us the best clarity for different situations. Costco may have the brands we prefer.

A knowledgeable staff is important

Costco buyers know it is much more about the brand than the person behind it. You can have a good audiologist, but if the hearing aid can’t help you, nothing can get better than that. A professional with lots of experience dealing with many people within your similar hearing loss range will eventually be able to narrow your options and choose the best hearing aid for you.

Your experience with hearing aids is much more important data than the technologies your audiologist used to get you set up. Programming a hearing aid is done using technology. Most hearing aid programming technology does all the work for the audiologist, taking most of the guesswork out of making the initial adjustments. But not even an audiologist with the machine can get your hearing aids fitted correctly on the first try. You control the desired setting, which will help you hear better.

Where it can make a difference between a professional who knows what they are doing and someone who doesn’t is on two things. 1. Getting the hearing test done properly and 2. Knowing how to interpret what the person with the hearing aids is hearing and experiencing and making an adjustment that would improve their hearing quality. 

Audiologists and professionals with hearing will never be able to understand or know what we are experiencing using artificial hearing. Computers give them a scientific way of interpreting things. Knowing that everyone is different and one client’s adjustment is not the same. 

Customer service and aftercare

While Costco can’t deal with wax buildups or hearing health issues, it can provide ear mold fittings, sell batteries, repair hearing aids, and buy them. 

People enjoy the customer service and knowledgeable staff. The staff enjoy working there. They are not pressured to deal with commissions, incentives, sales targets, or upselling. Those who work there are into customer service and satisfaction. 

If you are ever worried about not having an extra pair of hearing aids, Costco provides a free loaner while you wait for your hearing aid to be fixed.

Addressing potential concerns and misconceptions

Costco can’t fit hearing aids well

There is a misconception that Costco doesn’t know how to fit hearing aids for your specific type of hearing loss. This assumption often comes because many think Costco doesn’t hire audiologists.

Costco doesn’t have audiologists

There are both audiologists and specialists at Costco’s hearing centers. Just like any other clinic. Costco has the right to be in business and sell hearing aids in a highly regulated industry. They are not breaking the law, and laws do not exempt Costco from providing poor health care.

Not all stores will have an audiologist, but there will be at least one in your area. The only downside is that when you choose Costco over a hearing clinic, you won’t have a consistent person to service you, as in most hearing clinics.  At hearing clinics, they are usually the owners of the business. 

With Costco, you may have different people come in over the years, and if you find one good audiologist or staff, it will be harder to keep seeing them over some time. Unless they decide to remain in the job for a long while.

Costco tailors only for mild to moderate seniors demographics

The other misconception is that those with profound hearing loss can’t seek hearing aids at Costco. People often think that Costco targets older folks with mild hearing loss. Costco sells Phonak hearing aids, which can provide enough power and hearing adjustments for those with profound hearing loss. Costco can support even those with the most difficult hearing loss charts and fit them with hearing aids.

Audiologists are in the business of trying to keep their profession as relevant as possible. With the advancement of technology and the offering of multiple hearing aid brands, things are not the same as they used to be.

As consumers, we want hearing aids to be as cheap as eyeglasses, But at the same time,  some professionals and hard-of-hearing folks don’t want the eye clinic business structure or business model. Where professionals with fewer qualifications are providing services for fitting eyeglasses, or in our case, hearing aids and those who are at the top of their professions are doing more health prevention work and examination.

How to buy hearing aids at Costco?

How to pay for your new hearing aids

Costco expects payment as with any purchase of goods and services. You can use your debit or credit card to pay upfront.  Understand that they won’t be able to split payment with other third-party service providers that offer hearing aids at a discount.

How to reduce the price of hearing aids

How to save money on hearing aids at Costco

There is another incentive when you buy with Costco. They have cash-back credit cards. If you purchase your hearing aids using their credit card brand, you can get money back. This can be a nice added benefit for buying other things in their store. At Costco, buying hearing aids can support your other living expenses.

Insurance

While some insurance companies think of hearing aids as cosmetic purchases, others consider them as medical products. If you have private insurance or health and wellness insurance through work, some plans offer reimbursement for cover partial to full coverage on hearing aid purchases.

Some hearing clinics offer a set price for specific hearing aids in partnership with health insurance plans, but with Costco, you will need to pay up front and get reimbursed later for most insurance plans.

Flexible Savings Account (FSA) and Health Savings Account (HSA) funds

If you know you will need to buy hearing aids for the rest of your life, it would be good to start saving. Some employers have an FSA and HSA account, allowing you to set aside a certain amount to fund future medical expenses. 

Medicaid (US)

In the US, if you do not have access to private insurance, you can benefit from Medicaid. Medicaidincludes hearing aid cost coverage as well.

Provincial Health Services (Canada)

In Canada, each province provides health care services and covers some of the costs of hearing aids. Costco should be registered for the hearing aid provider program, which allows them to offer a lower price.

Veterans benefits

In some states and provinces, military personnel can receive hearing aids at a discount or for free.

State vocational rehabilitation programs (US)

You may be able to qualify for grants that can provide funding to cover your hearing aids. 

Other hearing aid financial resources

There are independent non-profit programs that provide coverage for hearing aids for low-income people. These programs are a great way to get coverage for hearing aids.

Case Studies: Real-Life Experiences

Personal anecdotes highlighting positive outcomes

I’ve gathered a few chats from people online telling their experiences at Costco.

A woman in a group chat didn’t think Costco could serve the severe to profound ski slope loss that she has. Her hearing is typically difficult to fit, and many hearing aids don’t work, but she found that hearing aids at Costco work for her. She is using the Kirkland Signature 10.0.

Some people express shock to see stark differences in prices for the same hearing aids. At a hearing clinic, they might be quoted $7300 for a pair, but hearing aids that are at Costco were offered at $2000 for a paid

One person who has always gone to a specialized audiologist to support their bone-anchored hearing aid for one ear got service at Costco with knowledgeable staff, and their hearing aid works very well.

Addressing challenges

One person has been using Costco’s Philips hearing for about a year. They found them to work well generally, except in restaurants and open halls,

Some have tried hearing aids at Costco for their severe and profound hearing loss, but they couldn’t skip the Bluetooth option that they like with the Signa brand. They couldn’t find any product that matched this specific feature at the time. 

Some hearing aid shoppers found that the Costco staff didn’t know what they were doing and sometimes disliked customer service. 

Professional Opinions

Insights from audiologists and hearing specialists professionals from outside of Costco

Many professionals who run hearing clinics would say repeatedly that hearing aid fitting is important to ensure that you have hearing aids that work well.  Hearing aids, for the most part, are medical products. They need to be done with care. 

These professionals often say you need someone to support your health and overall well-being. A reputable professional who is an audiologist, not a hearing instrument specialist,  can help identify other underlying health issues.

They believe that low price often means low services. They believe in the pricing of their hearing aids. Higher pricing means they can provide personalized and individual care for anyone who needs to return every so often between 3-5 years. It’s an additional cost if they are required to fit and repair hearing aids, which involves compensation for time.  

Audiologists or hearing instrument specialists believe that they are contributions to the community. By providing services, including house visits and other services that make hearing care accessible, they think they are an added benefit to the local collectives. When you are buying hearing aids, you should think about investing in the service to treat your hearing loss.

Tips for Prospective Buyers

Hearing aid clinics and cost are not the only factors determining a good service. It always comes down to the people. Many people who work as audiologists or technicians at Costco or elsewhere can be good or bad. 

Costco can sell unlocked hearing aids.  You are not limited to just working with Costco or one hearing clinic. If the service isn’t what you want, you can shop for a professional to do the job you like or need.

Understanding individual hearing needs

Remember that your hearing loss is personal. Your hearing chart is unique; every hearing aid model is designed to cover some range and types of hearing loss. You are limited to the hearing aid brands in the market and the type of customers the manufacturers would like to serve. That’s why the FDA allowed over-the-counter hearing aids to open up the market. For the longest time, the hearing aid manufacturers only wanted to serve people with moderate to profound hearing loss.

Importance of a comprehensive hearing assessment

Every hearing aid purchase needs to start with a well-done hearing test. If anyone fails to do the test correctly because they didn’t set up the testing booth correctly, you will not be able to get a good hearing aid fitted. 

Making informed decisions based on personal preferences and lifestyle

You want to be seeking hearing aid brands that fit your lifestyle. Are you someone who likes to work out often with hearing aids? Are you often in a noisy environment, works in a factory, or is social and likes to go out often? Picking and choosing your hearing aids need to reflect who you are and the day-to-day experiences and goals that you have for yourself.

FAQ.

How long do Costco hearing aids last?

Many hearing aid manufacturers, on average, expect hearing aids to last 3-5 years. Costco doesn’t select hearing aids based on how long they last. 

Hearing aids last based on how well you care for them. Someone who religiously avoids moisture in their hearing aids using a dry aid kit and cares for the devices by not damaging them will find they can use them for over ten years. Like a car, if you don’t care for it well, it will not be able to drive for a long time.

Another hint to give you an idea of how long hearing aids will last at your clinic is to look at how long the brands or clinics are willing to service your hearing aids. Some clinics will stop repairing hearing aids after five years. Once you pass that threshold, you will find that it costs the clinic too much expenses to service an old hearing aid, and they would rather have you buy new ones. 

Are Costco hearing tests accurate?

Costco hires audiologists and hearing instrument specialists trained to conduct hearing tests. The quality of the person’s skills and capabilities, not the technology or Costco brand, will determine whether the hearing tests are accurate. 

How much does Costco charge for hearing aids on average?

Costco charges, on average, between $1500 and $2000. The highest price you may pay is about $5000. These prices will vary depending on your country.

What brand of hearing aid does Costco carry?

At the time of writing, Jabra, Lexie, Rexton, Phonak/ Kirkland or Philips.

Conclusion

Recap of key points

Where Costco stands out is really on price. You can always search for a professional at Costco within your city or neighbouring city who is knowledgeable and fits hearing aids well. 

For some, price isn’t an issue, and you want to have a relationship with your audiologists. You like your hearing care professional to be your personal assistant. For others, you just want to hear better; it doesn’t matter who serves you. Either way, it is not wrong but a personal preference. 

You may be in favour of one hearing aid brand over the other. You can’t stand the audio differences from another brand, and the sound is causing you too much headache. If Costco provides your hearing aid brand, that would be another reason you would like to try it out.  

The value of having this review on how Costco provides hearing aids should help you decide what needs you have and what kind of service you prefer.

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