Let me be the first to say it – I do love Costco. Like the random, magical aisle at Aldi, you just don’t know what fun things you’ll find there. From food and drinks to technology and toys, Costco has it all – even hearing aids. Sales from hearing aids at Costco are one of the top revenue generators for the company. But before you buy, check out the pros and cons with hearing aids at Costco, so you know what to expect.
What I Love About Hearing Aids at Costco
Lower Hearing Aid Cost
Costco is a large, nationwide store that competes against its competitors by cutting profit margins – sometimes cutting prices so much they lose money to gain more market share. And being a global entity, they are the single largest purchases of hearing devices in the industry.
Unsustainably low-profit margins and bulk order discount from manufacturers means Costco can significantly drive down hearing devices’ cost beyond its competitors, passing the savings onto their members.
Quality Private Label Devices
Even though Costco’s majority of hearing aids are rebranded, they are still made by reputable manufacturers, so the quality is there. With the right maintenance and care, you can expect Kirkland hearing aids to last years.
All-Inclusive Service While Under Warranty
With Costco’s all-inclusive service, you receive hearing aid cleanings, repairs, adjustments, and supplies for free while under warranty. And these warranties typically range from 2 to 4 years. With that said, all clinics offer warranties with their devices. However, Costco does include some items that may not be considered standard.
Licensed Audiologists (at some locations)
One of the biggest things I emphasize to all my patients is – go to a provider that seems knowledgeable and someone you trust, even if that person isn’t me. The most premium hearing aid technology out there is garbage if it isn’t programmed appropriately.
Working with a skilled, licensed hearing professional is directly connected to your satisfaction and benefit received from your hearing aid. If you choose to purchase Costco devices, you should choose a location that hires audiologists or certified hearing instrument specialists.
What I Hate About Hearing Aids at Costco
If you haven’t yet grabbed your membership card and drove straight to Costco because of all the glorious things I’ve said, then great! You’re doing your due diligence and being a smart consumer. Here’s what consumers and myself alike don’t like about Costco hearing devices.
Lack of Repeat Customers
Hearing aid industry research reports only about 25% of first-time hearing aid users to purchase a second set from Costco. This means the remaining 75% pursue amplification elsewhere or were so dissatisfied, they stopped using hearing aids altogether! And with many comorbidities associated with hearing loss, providers should take pride in fitting and use best practices.
The following cons can offer some other reasons why consumers don’t choose to return for subsequent devices. But either way, a low rate of customer return is worrisome.
Locked Programming and Removed Features
One way Costco cuts costs is by working with reputable hearing aid manufacturers to create private label devices. The positive is Costco can remove “extras” and pass the saving onto you. However, these “extras” can be vital to your success.
First, these rebranded hearing aids have locked programming. That means if you purchase a Costco hearing aid, you can only go to Costco for all future programming adjustments and repairs. If you’re happy with your Costco service, no problem. However, if you want to go to another provider, move to a location where Costco isn’t convenient as it once was, or need servicing while on vacation, you’ll be out of luck with locked Costco aids.
Secondly, Costco can save costs by removing some advanced features or limiting them to premium technology. If you feel like you may be struggling to understand in some listening environments or believe you aren’t doing as well as you should – it may be the hearing aids are missing the features that would otherwise make you successful.
No Repairs Beyond Warranty
As I mentioned earlier, Costco’s hearing aid warranties are all-inclusive. So basically, whatever else you need post-purchase will be covered while under warranty. But if anything happens to your hearing aid outside of warranty and need repair, you’re out of luck, often forced to buy a new set.
Since many Costco hearing aids are rebranded, they aren’t maintaining their stock for very long. Whereas conversely, at a clinic that utilizes un-modified devices, parts are kept with the manufacturer for 7 to 10 years after fitting, sometimes even longer. So we can repair your device without forcing you to purchase a new one.
Costco Doesn’t Take Insurance
For a long time, it didn’t really matter whether Costco accepted hearing aid insurance benefits or not because very few plans offered them. However, moving forward, legislation in many states requires insurance companies to provide optional coverage for those over 65 years of age.
If you’re in Illinois, that means effective January 1, 2021, House Bill 3503 mandates coverage of up to $2,500 per hearing aid every 24 months. That type of coverage can get you advanced technology at most clinics, removing to seek out low-cost alternatives.
Long Wait Times
Costco has a limited amount of availability for hearing aid appointments and often have to wait weeks to months not only to get in but for adjustments or servicing. Imagine having a hearing aid that is no longer working correctly, and you have to wait a month before it’s addressed!
You are required to have a membership to take advantage of all the savings Costco can offer. That is actually how they make up the losses they take on many products that I mentioned earlier. Without membership fees, Costco’s business model is unsustainable.
The bottom line is Costco sells quality devices at an affordable price. Although quality and price are most often a focus for consumers, when it comes to hearing aids, it’s imperative to remember the care aspect of the purchase as well. Understanding the pros and cons will help you make an informed decision. Hopefully you’ll avoid the aches and pains others have experienced before you.
If you are in the Chicago-land area and are looking for affordable hearing aids with high-quality care, consider contacting Wholistic Hearing Care. We not only have hearing aid and service options comparable to Costco but bring the clinic to you. Give Dr. Stephanie Gutzmer a call at (630) 474-5008 to learn how she can get you into better hearing today.
We proudly provide on-site hearing services for Cook, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, and Will counties in Illinois.