Costco is the largest hearing aids supplier in the United States. Some industry experts project that Costco will account for 20% of the hearing aid market by the end of 2021. The company's massive buying power means it can sell hearing aids at costs well below other retailers and hearing centers.
That's great news for millions of Americans who could benefit from hearing aids but can't afford $5,000 or more for a pair at a hearing center. Costco's Kirkland Signature hearing aids sell for about $1,500 a pair and have a similar level of technology as brands costing more than twice as much.
But are Costco hearing aids right for you? Costco hearing aids are not the most affordable on the market. You can buy feature-rich hearing aids online at a similar price (or less) for a pair that works for most types of hearing loss. However, Costco sells a wide range of hearing aid brands and models at several different price points, including top-of-the-line devices from premium brands.
Health editors reviewed Costco hearing aids and the overall buying experience. If you're thinking of buying hearing aids at Costco, here's what you should know before you start shopping.
Costco sells five brands of hearing aids:
Each brand sells different styles of hearing aids, including behind-the-ear (BTE), in-the-canal (ITC), and in-the-ear (ITE) devices.
Costco doesn't actually manufacture its Kirkland-brand hearing aids. Sonova, the world's largest hearing aid manufacturer, makes Costco's hearing aids. Sonova also manufactures Phonak hearing aids, and in fact, the Kirkland Signature 9.0 is very similar to the Phonak Marvel hearing aid.
The Kirkland Signature hearing aids get rave reviews for their industry-leading Bluetooth streaming technology. In addition to hands-free phone calls and audio streaming, you can control your hearing aids with a smartphone app. This is a great feature if you have dexterity issues or want a more discreet way to adjust your hearing aids.
The Kirkland Signature is a technologically advanced receiver-in-canal hearing aid with 20 channels and 12 audio programs. The newly upgraded 9.0 version can be paired with two devices at one time and works with the EasyLine RemoteControl and PartnerMic. The upgrade allows the hearing aids to be serviced remotely, which is a huge advantage if you're trying to avoid unnecessary trips to the hearing aid center.
On the downside, the Kirkland Signature is only available with disposable batteries; there is currently no rechargeable hearing aid option.
Costco hearing aids come with a three-year warranty, which covers defects, damage, and even loss of the device. It also includes 10 disposable batteries, a carrying case, and a cleaning kit.
Cost: Price starts at $1,499 a pair.
The Phonak Brio comes in behind-the-ear and custom in-the-canal models. These hearing aids have similar software and sound processing capabilities to the Phonak Marvel, the brand's top-of-the-line hearing aids. In addition to Bluetooth streaming, the Brio also works with the PartnerMic streamer and TV Connector so you can listen to your TV in high-quality Dolby sound.
The Brio is app-controlled for precise adjustments. It can also be serviced remotely by Costco hearing centers. There's also a power BTE option available if you have moderate to severe hearing loss.
Both models use disposable batteries, and there is currently no rechargeable option available.
Cost: Prices start at $2,499 a pair for the BTE model and $2,699 a pair for the ITC model.
You can also purchase Phonak hearing aids through a discount network at a similar price point, with a local fitting service included in your purchase.
Costco sells the high-tech Rexton Adore line of hearing aids in their hearing centers. There are four models currently available:
Rexton is a subsidiary of WS Audiology, the company that manufactures Signia and Widex hearing aids. Rexton hearing aids are known for their My Voice technology which recognizes and processes the wearer's voice differently for the most natural hearing experience.
Rexton offers an innovative accessory, the Smart Key, with its hearing aids. The Smart Key is a tiny remote with tactile buttons you can slip in a purse or pocket to discreetly adjust your hearing aids. If you don't want to fiddle with your phone to adjust your device, you'll love the Smart Key.
Cost: Prices start at $2,499 a pair depending on model and options.
You can buy the ReSound Vida and Preza models, which are available in receiver-in-the-canal and custom BTE and ITC styles. The Preza is a rechargeable hearing aid with an available portable charging case that sells for $199. The Vida uses disposable batteries.
Both models have advanced sound processing and Bluetooth connectivity for effortless streaming. You can buy additional wireless accessories including a remote microphone, TV streamer, remote control to adjust the hearing aids, and a phone clip that lets you stream calls from your smartphone.
Cost: Prices start at $2,499 a pair.
You can also purchase ReSound hearing aids through a discount network at a similar price point, with a local fitting service included in your purchase.
Philips entered the hearing aid market in 2019 and chose Costco as its distribution partner. The Philips HearLink hearing aids are manufactured by Demant and feature Demant's well-regarded SoundMap processing, which helps you understand speech in even the noisiest environments.
The Costco Philips hearing aids come in receiver-in-the-canal and behind-the-ear styles. Philips touts the devices' advanced noise reduction and feedback cancellation technology as well as their multichannel directional microphones.
The HearLink app controls all the settings and adjustments and even lets you mute your hearing aids. If you're the sort who tends to misplace things, we think you'll love the "find my hearing aids" feature that helps you locate your hearing aids if you lose them.
Cost: Prices start at $2,499 a pair.
The average cost for a pair of hearing aids is about $5,000, which may not include exams, fittings, follow-up appointments, and extended warranties. It's not uncommon to spend $8,000 or more on a pair of high-tech hearing aids at a hearing center.
Costco sells national-brand hearing aids at a steep discount. For example, the Phonak Brio ITC hearing aid starts at just $2,700 a pair when comparable hearing center models can cost $4,000 or more.
Costco Kirkland hearing aids represent the best value among the brands sold by Costco. At $1,500 a pair, the Kirkland Signature provides a level of technology and popular features similar to the Phonak Brio but costs $1,000 less.
While Costco's prices are much lower than hearing center prices, they are still higher than those of many hearing aid brands you can purchase online.
Costco offers a service that appeals to many people, but there are important reasons you might decide that buying hearing aids at Costco isn't right for you.
Costco relies on hearing aid specialists to administer hearing tests, recommend and fit you for your hearing aids, and program your device after purchase. Hearing aid specialists are licensed by their state to dispense hearing aids, but they don't have the expertise of an audiologist.
An audiologist holds a doctorate degree and is an expert in all aspects of hearing care. He or she can prevent, diagnose, and treat hearing loss, balance problems, and other issues relating to the auditory (hearing) or vestibular (balance) systems. An audiologist provides comprehensive hearing health care, whereas a licensed hearing aid dispenser is solely trained to help you purchase hearing aids.
If you want the cost savings but also value the expertise of an audiologist, you can purchase hearing aids by manufacturers such as Phonak, Signia, Starkey, Resound, Widex, and Oticon through a discount network for up to 35% less than retail price. You'll be able to connect with an audiologist in your area and still save money.
MDHearingAid sells a BTE hearing aid with many features similar to the Kirkland model for just $800 a pair.
Eargo sells an award-winning rechargeable in-the-ear hearing aid for $1,850 a pair. This is hundreds of dollars less than the similarly featured Costco Rexton rechargeable hearing aids.
Lively offers a quality hearing aid along with top-notch customer service and audiologist support for $1,850 per pair of battery-operated hearing aids and $2,400 for a rechargeable pair.
Because of the risk of COVID-19, people are increasingly buying hearing aids online. Unfortunately, that isn't an option at Costco. You have to make an appointment at the store's hearing center.
The process starts with a free hearing test. You don't have to be a member to take the test, but you do need a Costco membership (currently $60 a year) to buy hearing aids. You'll have to make an appointment for each visit, and sometimes the wait time can be long.
The hearing test takes about one hour to complete, and the hearing aid specialist explains your results as soon as the test is finished. If the test reveals hearing loss, the hearing professional will discuss your options and recommend suitable hearing aid models.
Costco hearing aid specialists aren't paid by commission, so there is no pressure to sell you a particular hearing aid brand. You'll be able to try on the models that interest you and learn about the various options and accessories.
If you decide to buy hearing aids, the hearing specialist will custom fit the devices using real ear measurements (REM). REM is the gold standard to ensure fit and function. If you choose a custom hearing aid, the specialist will take the necessary ear molds and measurements. Once the order is placed, it takes about two weeks for your hearing aids to ship.
You have to pay upfront for your hearing aids. Costco doesn't offer in-store financing and they don't file insurance claims for you. However, they do provide the documentation you need to file a claim if your plan covers hearing aids.
Costco staffs its hearing centers with licensed hearing instrument specialists. This means your hearing aids are fitted and dispensed by licensed professionals. However, Costco does not offer specialized testing by an audiologist to diagnose the cause of your hearing loss. You may still need to see a doctor for certain types of hearing loss.
RELATED: Does Medicare cover hearing aids?
Costco offers an impressive six-month trial period. Most companies offer a 30-day trial period, although a few online hearing aid manufacturers offer 45 days. Lively, Health's top pick for the best hearing aid you can buy online, offers a 100-day trial period. The Costco 180-day trial period applies to all hearing aid brands sold at Costco, not just the Kirkland Signature models.
Costco offers a free loss and damage warranty with no deductible, which is unusual for hearing aids. The warranty period varies by manufacturer; Costco Kirkland hearing aids come with a three-year manufacturer warranty.
Many hearing aids sold by Costco include remote service capabilities. This means that common service issues can be handled at home via smartphone app.
Major hearing aid manufacturers that partner with retailers like Costco often offer special models or private label brands that are only available through that particular retailer. Rexton's Adore line and Phonak's Brio line are examples of models made especially for and sold exclusively by Costco.
While this is great for consumers who want nationally recognized brands at discount prices, there is often a trade-off. These exclusive brands are usually "locked," which means they can only be serviced by the partner retailer. In other words, even if you have Costco Phonak hearing aids, you can't get them serviced at a hearing center that sells Phonak devices. Only Costco can service them and handle any warranty claims.
Defeaturing is another issue with some Costco hearing aids. When a hearing aid is defeatured, it means the manufacturer "waters down" some of the features or technology found in its other brands or models. For example, a manufacturer might typically include tinnitus management in its hearing aids, but remove that feature on the models it sells through Costco.
We checked independent consumer review sites to see what actual customers say about their experience with Costco hearing aids. Here's what we found:
While most reviews were positive, some reviewers had negative customer service experiences. Very few reviewers complained of issues with their hearing aids, however.
Consumer Reports gave Costco hearing aids a score of 76 out of 100 based on over 17,000 customer responses. Costco received the highest customer satisfaction rating for price and overall value among the 16 brands tested. The Consumer Reports survey did not include any online hearing aid brands.
Interestingly, one industry survey found that only 25% of customers returned to Costco for a second pair of hearing aids.
Buying hearing aids can be a complicated process. With dozens of brands and styles on the market, some people find it hard to choose which one is best without testing and comparing them in person.
If you're one of those people, Costco hearing centers give you the opportunity to compare several different models and get a custom fitting from a licensed hearing specialist. Costco has something for almost every hearing need, although its current lineup is short on rechargeable hearing aids.
Costco is a good choice for value shoppers. You can buy national hearing center brands at low, big box-store prices. But even Costco's bargain prices can't compete with top online hearing aid brands. The best value in hearing aids today is with up-and-coming online brands like Lively, Eargo, Audicus, and MDHearingAid. Another great alternative is purchasing hearing aids by popular manufacturers such as Phonak, Starkey, ReSound, Widex, and Oticon through a discount network that also connects you to an audiologist in your area.
It's tough to beat Costco's no-deductible loss and damage warranty and three-year warranty on Kirkland hearing aids. The free checkups, adjustments, and hearing aid cleanings are another nice perk. With the new remote-enabled models, you can avoid the store altogether for many service issues.
One thing to remember, however, is that you are "married" to Costco even if you buy a national hearing aid brand. If you're traveling and have problems with your Costco Phonak hearing aid, you can't visit the nearest hearing center for help. You'll have to find a Costco for service and repair.
Ultimately, Costco is a good option for value-minded shoppers who aren't comfortable buying hearing aids online. You get top quality hearing aids at low prices with an industry-leading warranty and no-questions-asked trial period.
Sheila Olson has over two decades of experience writing about Medicare, health, and personal finance. Her work has been featured on sites such as Investopedia, The Motley Fool, and Boomer Benefits. Sheila holds a MPH (Master of Public Health) from Northern Arizona University.