How To Buy A Hearing Aid Consumer Reports Extra Quality
In addition to offering the convenience of buying your hearing aids and having them serviced at a store you visit frequently, Costco uses its volume buying and distribution clout to offer lower prices for hearing aids than many private hearing aid practices. But remember, you have to join as a regular Costco Wholesale warehouse club member to buy and get service from its hearing aid centers. Memberships start at $60 per year.
how to buy a hearing aid consumer reports
Costco's secret sauce is the combination of low, low prices for high-quality name-brand hearing aids and consistently good service. Costco stays ahead of the pack by performing sound verification on every hearing aid fitted (common at top-quality hearing clinics) and by offering competitive return policies and product warranties.
Costco sells hearing aids manufactured by leading global hearing aid companies. It currently offers models from Rexton, Philips, and Jabra, all top-name brands. Click on the links below to jump to summaries of the three brands later in the story.
What about Costco's Kirkland house brand? Until recently, Costco sold the very popular Kirkland Signature KS10 hearing aid manufactured by Sonova, the world's largest hearing aid manufacturer. In a 2022 survey fielded by Consumer Reports, the KS10's were the top choice among Costco customers. But in October 2022, Sonova withdrew all its products from Costco, including its line of Phonak Brio hearing aids, so the Kirkland hearing aid brand is currently not for sale (see more details at the end of this story).
Apples-to-apples price comparisons can be difficult, but for many comparable quality hearing aids, you can easily save $1,000 or more buying from Costco instead of an independent provider. (In the Costco examples below, we've linked to pages that give average prices for comparable models sold by independent providers.)
The purchase price of all hearing aids includes standard three-year manufacturers' warranties covering any repairs that may be required, including replacement of your hearing aid if necessary. And Costco offers a two-year loss-and-damage warranty, with no deductible cost, to replace up to one hearing aid per ear during the warranty period.
Costco hearing aids come in all form factors, including open-fit behind-the-ear (BTE), custom BTE, receiver-in-the-canal (RIC), and custom in-the-ear (ITE). They also come with a range of up-to-date features, including rechargeability, advanced directional noise suppression, and Bluetooth connectivity enabling wireless audio streaming.
Wireless accessories are also available, such as the popular audio transmitters that broadcast audio directly to your hearing aids for assistance hearing in background noise. Accessories cost extra, as do earmolds for custom in-the-ear styles.
Costco sells Jabra-branded hearing aids starting at $1,699.99 a pair. Jabra built a strong consumer brand name producing wireless earbuds and office headsets before parent company GN Store Nord A/S (based in Denmark) moved it into the hearing health space with its Jabra Enhance Pro 10 hearing aids, offered exclusively to Costco members.
They feature advanced sound processing with directional microphones for better understanding of speech in noise and automatic adjustment optimizing program settings for changes in the sound environment. And the Enhance Pro app allows you to control the hearing aids from your Samsung Galaxy phone, your iPhone, or even your Apple Watch.
When top-five hearing aid manufacturer Demant forged a partnership with Philips in the spring of 2019 to produce HearLink hearing aids under the Philips brand, people wondered how the global consumer electronics giant would distribute the high-end products. They quickly got their answer when Costco started to sell Philips HearLink hearing aids in its hearing aid centers.
The Rexton hearing aids feature rechargeability and wireless technology, including Made-for-iPhone connectivity, direct Bluetooth streaming to ASHA-enabled Android phones, and wireless accessories. BiCore technology also separates and processes speech and background noise to provide better speech clarity while maintaining the background around you for a more natural listening experience.
They also provide wireless Made-for-iPhone connectivity as well as connection to TVs and other Bluetooth-enabled devices. The Rexton Smart Transmitter 2.4 streams TV wirelessly to both hearing aids, the Rexton Smart Mic provides hands-free streaming of phone calls and media, and the Rexton Smart Key is a small remote control that can be carried in your pocket.
Costco's hearing aid centers have been one of the biggest success stories in the hearing aid industry over the past decade: according to a 2017 report from Bernstein Research, sales at Costco hearing centers grew exceptionally fast at approximately 20% per year from 2011-2017. Today, HearingTracker estimates Costco dispenses around 580,000 hearing aids per year, accounting for nearly 15% of all units sold in the U.S. retail market during 2022. In other words, Costco is currently the second-largest distributor of hearing aids in the United States behind only the Department of Veterans Affairs.
However, Costco's outlook for the future is less certain. When the FDA approved the online sale of low-cost OTC hearing aids in 2022, it paved the way for dozens of new companies marketing high-quality non-prescription hearing aids at prices even lower than Costco's. "Self-fitting" OTC hearing aids allow you to program them to fit your own hearing loss. By cutting out programming assistance from hearing professionals, they can charge substantially lower prices than Costco or private audiologist practices.
The first OTC hearing aids hit the market in early 2023. If you're considering Costco as a way to pay less for a pair of quality hearing aids, be sure to continue checking back in at HearingTracker for updates on how the new OTC hearing aids will compete on price and performance with Costco and other providers.
HearingTracker reported on October 5, 2022 that Costco hit the pause button on sales of the KS10 hearing aid, making this model unavailable. The KS10, which was made by the world's largest hearing aid manufacturer Sonova, appeared to have experienced an increase in problems related to recharging, although people close to the situation contend the incidence of these problems did not rise substantially above industry norms for lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids.
That means, at this writing, you cannot purchase the Costco KS10 or the Phonak Brio 4 and Brio 5 models also previously sold by Costco. If you've been fitted with the KS10 or Brio products, you will still be able to receive all services and support associated with the hearing aids from Costco hearing care professionals.
Dr. Bailey is a leading expert on consumer technology in the audiology industry. He is a staunch advocate for patient-centered hearing care and audiological best practices, and welcomes any technological innovation that improves access to quality hearing outcomes. Dr. Bailey holds an Au.D. from Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
This question is trickier to answer than it should be. As the name suggests, over-the-counter hearing aids generally encompass hearing aids that are sold directly via manufacturer and health-care websites and can be set up, tuned, and adjusted by the wearer (that is, no in-person doctor or audiologist visits required). They are designed for adults with mild to moderate hearing loss.
I also engaged with the Hearing Loss Association of America, a nonprofit advocacy group, for insight into the obstacles that the hearing-loss community encounters when considering and obtaining hearing aids:
Lastly, we assembled a testing panel that included four people of various ages, with varying degrees of hearing loss and dexterity and with varying amounts of hearing-aid experience. See How we tested for more specifics on our panel.
Financial constraints were another common concern among our HLAA survey respondents. More than half (53%) reported that they had zero insurance coverage for hearing aids. Of those respondents with coverage, 32% said they were partly covered, and only 11% said they had insurance plans under which hearing aids were fully covered. (The remaining 4% said they were unsure what their plans covered.) The cost of prescription hearing aids varies from around $1,000 to $14,000 per pair; the most expensive pair of OTC hearing aids we tested cost $6,000, but the average price was closer to $850.
Finally, many members of the hearing-loss community and audiologists we spoke with expressed trepidation regarding a system wherein the person recommending a given hearing-aid benefits financially from the sale and also may participate in exclusive partnerships with manufacturers. If you would prefer to separate the medical office from the purchasing process, and if you are willing to possibly engage in some trial and error to find the best hearing aids for your needs, you are well suited to the over-the-counter approach.
For this guide, we focused on over-the-counter hearing-augmentation devices that are available directly online from manufacturers or via remote health-care websites. We looked at PSAPs, hearables, and consumer-direct hearing aids with varying degrees of sound enhancement or augmentation and priced from $95 to $6,000.
I know from years of testing headphones that no one earbud works for every listener. The same is true for hearing aids. Preference for attributes like rechargeable versus replaceable batteries, water resistance, and over-ear versus in-ear design are largely lifestyle dependent. However, our HLAA survey respondents broadly agreed that some features are essential: 041b061a72