BREAKING NEWS: Costco to sell Phonak premium hearing aids for $1349

BREAKING NEWS: Costco to sell Phonak premium hearing aids for $1349

Phonak, having seen the July 2013 expansion of GN ReSound’s Minnesota facility to handle Costco’s business, wants a piece of the pie and is joining them and Rexton in selling deeply discounted premium hearing aids to the 500+ dispensing locations throughout the United States starting April 1st.

It appears to us that this has been in the works since at least mid-2013, as Phonak drastically expanded their US production by moving it out of their Warrenville IL headquarters into a nearby new factory in Aurora, with production having started in January.

See also: ANALYSIS: Advanced Bionics Will Be Harmed By Costco Selling Phonak Hearing Aids

The following is a verbatim comment by C. Scot Frink on a post in the LinkedIn Hearing Aid Professionals group on Phonak’s decision to sell their devices through Costco. Scot is President & Audiologist at Salem Audiology Clinic in Oregon,  which primarily dispenses Phonak hearing aids. He is a second generation hearing aid professional; and was the regional sales director for Phonak from 1999 through 2001.

I’ve got details. I found out early last week and have been fishing for information. I was asked to not share any information until after yesterday. Well, here we are. What I’m about to reveal will be easy to find out soon enough, so why not tell you all now before misinformation starts to take over.

Needless to say, I’m seriously pissed. I have been a big Phonak account since the mid 1990s and love their products. This to me is a serious betrayal, as it was when ReSound did it in the 1990s and then again in the mid 2000s.

Starting April 1, Costco will start selling a Phonak “Premium” product. This means it is classified with the their top-of-the-line. It will be a proprietary product, not exactly the same as their currently flagship product, the Q90. It will have most of the same features, the only confirmed exception is that it will not have a tinnitus noise generator as some of the Q90 products do since Costco at this point doesn’t want to delve into tinnitus management.

Price will be $1,349 per aid, which is only slightly more than what my invoice cost is. They are calling it “Brio” (not absolutely sure about the spelling, but the sound of the name is the same). Kind of a bastardization of the name “Bolero”, which is the name for their current standard BTE line. Just like it is a bastardization of the relationship I have had with them.

For Phonak and all the other manufacturers who sell to Costco, answer me this: Why the hell should I buy your product when you sell it to me for only slightly less (and sometimes more, depending on company) than what Costco is retailing it for? How can I compete against that? Good service? Been there, done that, still trying.

In our area, Costco fitters are usually pretty good. I’ve found them well trained, ethical, and for sure concerned about the needs of the patient. Do we do a better job than they do? Absolutely, and primarily because we have the flexibility as an independent to bend our own rules to meet the patients needs as compared to someone who has to follow strict corporate rules. But being better at service and flexibility isn’t enough when price is the number one issue patients ask about. Sure, we can educate them on the difference and how we can offer more, but when it comes down to it, especially in this economy. money talks. People walk.

Back when ReSound first entered Costco, we had many people return their hearing aids they had recently purchased when they found out Costco was offering “the same thing,” even though it wasn’t the same thing (it was a trimmer-based product rather than a programmable like the good old BT2s and ED3s). But no matter how you explained it to the patient, they didn’t get it.

Phonak can expect a lot of Hell over the next few months, based on my experience of what ReSound went through. They can expect and increase in returned from the non-Costcos and non-VA offices, and for a lot of reasons. The first is the one I gave above. Another are resentful practice owners like myself who, over the serious bad taste this is leaving, will send everything back that they can. Third will be fitters who even have patients in process who will switch the patient to a different manufacturer just because they are so pissed at Phonak. I’ve seen it happen before, and not [sic] it will happen again.

But Phonak and Sonova had to know this going into it. They have probably done the math and decide it was still worth pissing off their loyal customers because of the units they’ll get from Costco. When it comes down to it, it’s all about the almighty buck.

(More coming, as I’ve almost exceed the post length limit)

Scot continues in the next comment:

The source I spoke with at Phonak gave a lot of reasons for going into Costco that were not financially motivated, but it’s all B.S. According to the source, they did research and found that Costco buyers are, on average, younger than those that would come to my office, so their motivation was to help more people who have hearing loss at a younger age. Bull. Their motivation was to get a piece of that pie. If Costco was helping people find help at an earlier age, why not let ReSound and Rexton continue to fill that role? [Editor: Emphasis added]

By Phonak going into Costco, it doesn’t increase the number of people Costco is helping, it only changes the mix of what they’re selling. Costco only has so many people fitting hearing aids, and they only have so many hours in the day. Only Costco can change how many people they are helping, by increasing the number of outlets they have.

Phonak going into Costco does not increase the number of people being fit with hearing aids. It only takes business away from me. And my business away from them.

Phonak is owned by Sonova, which also owns Unitron and Advanced Bionics; GN ReSound is owned by GN Stor Nord, which also owns Beltone and Jabra; while Rexton is owned by Siemens, which also is the primary supplier to Miracle Ear.

Correction: Amplifon is an independent company listed on an Italian stock exchange; while although Hansaton is a privately owned company, they share a technological partnership with Siemens SAT.

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About the author

Dan Schwartz

Electrical Engineer, via Georgia Tech

59 Comments

  1. Rick Usifer
    March 11, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Dan – thanks for posting this. I had heard the news from a buying group rep but yours was the first post my search engine pulled up.

    This is another big nail in the coffin of the hearing aid dispensing industry. True, it probably won’t change the number of aids Costco sells, and true, they won’t help (or hurt) many more consumers than they did this month.

    What it will do is further cheapen our profession. We hang our hats on our professionalism. It’s the only thing that separates us from the Costcos and keeps us alive. Phonak used to be a brand that had a certain cachet and reputation because they restricted their sales to people who were qualified to dispense them in a professional setting. Hearing aid specialists and audiologists charge extra to allow them to provide extra service and care – higher price/lower volume service that many seniors need and want.

    Sure, younger people may not need this service, but they are a tiny portion of our clientele. This focus on extreme low price can’t help but draw seniors in, but many of them will leave unsatisfied and will leave their aids in the box. It’s a double blow for the industry: These customers will tell their friends that hearing aids are no good (after all,they got the “premium” Swiss ones!), and anybody who charges more than $2700 a pair is REALLY ripping them off. This makes small-practice dispensers who have truly devoted their careers to customer care look like thieves.

    One of my favorite books is called “Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance”. In this book, the narrator tries to explain the concept of Quality. This is not quality as we usually think of it, but Quality as a spiritual goal, of doing things for the right reason and doing them for the good of the universe. An audiologist who goes into work on a Saturday just to help a patient who has a wedding that day is manifesting Quality. Hiring a friendly front-office person to make patients comfortable supports Quality. A hearing aid company that supports that audiologist is also supporting Quality.

    However, a hearing aid company that sells the same product to a retail box store to be sold at a price that the would starve the audiologist is just wrong. Easy, but wrong. They are killing dedicated professionals who have spent fortunes on education and long years with no vacation to better themselves and serve others – in other words, to promote Quality. Manufacturers who support those professionals deserve our business. Those who do not do not. Unfortunately, it seems the more time passes, the more undeserving people prosper.

    But we professionals must do what we can to stop this. All the details aren’t out yet, but I will think long and hard before I fit another Phonak hearing aid and have not dispensed a ReSound hearing aid since Costco started selling them. Which is too bad, as I really like my Phonak sales rep. She is will really be hurt by this. And watch out, Costco – you might be the next middleman who gets eliminated. Phonak doesn’t care WHO sells their product, as long as it gets sold. Which is yet another bad sign for an industry that used to do a lot of good.


    • Tina Sheehan
      March 15, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      VERY well stated. You have put into words exactly how I have been feeling and thinking since this news broke. I have been a huge Phonak proponent, especially being that I focus greatly on pediatrics. This has me completely rethinking which manufacturers I would like to support. I will support those who support me and our profession, valuing the services and craftsmanship that we provide our patients.


    • Duane Wolcott
      July 5, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      LOL. The so-called “professionalism” of the audiology profession is, in my expereience, non-existent. I have worn hearing aids since the 1970’s, and it appears to me that the motivation of the “independent audiologist” is precisely the same as Phonak’s Costco move….to make as much money as possible. This year, I was forced to buy new hearing aids, not because mine had gone bad, but the earmold broke. Sent back to Siemens and they basically refused to transfer the electronics into a new mold (at least that was what my audiologist told me). Given subsequent actions, I have my doubts. I was as far has having new earmolds done and in the process of evaluating HA’s to mate to the mold. I kept trying to get information on different brands and specific aids that would address my specific hearing loss, and my audiologist kept saying “come in and consult”.

      Well, IMO, the information I was seeking I could have garnered by the “professional audiologist” simply giving me a list of brands and models, and was, in my opinion, necessary for me to have BEFORE any face-to-face consultation.

      I expressed that opinion, and the “professional audiologist” unilaterally canceled my next scheduled appointments and left me out to dry. This woman supposedly has a doctorate in audiology (I have a PhD in chemistry), that action doesn’t exactly as being very professional according to “my” understanding of what a doctorate holder is supposed to be.

      So I trucked over to my local Costco, and the experience there was FAR MORE PROFESSIONAL than that of the “professional audiologist”.

      And the hearing aids are quite satisfactory. I will certainly keep using a “professional audiologist” for continuing evaluation of my hearing, but I am definitely going to shop for a REAL PROFESSIONAL for my next audiologist. And yes, Costco may well be my “supplier of choice”.


  2. Rich
    March 12, 2014 at 10:46 am

    Audiologists and Dispensers have done this to themselves by supporting companies that are not interested in their survival. Phonak is owned by Sonova, who owns Hearing Planet, Unitron, Lyric, Connect Hearing, and Advanced Bionics. How many of you are supporting Hearing Planet? How about TruHearing, Hi-Health (neither owned by Sonova) or any other company that is undercutting your practice? All of these companies are cutting our throats and you’re enabling them. When will you figure it out? They are in direct competition with you on every level! If Audiologists and Hearing Aid Dispensers quit supporting these companies they will not make it. If Phonak (Sonova) is willing to cut our throats by selling to Costco and through Hearing Planet, not to mention all the offices they have purchased in recent years you must stop buying from them! Wake up people!


    • Sheryl
      March 12, 2014 at 2:47 pm

      I agree with Rich. Cancelled my HearingPlanet contract today. It’s been on my “to do” list since the place around the corner became associated with Connect Hearing. I have stopped buying Sonova products except on rare occasion. A real shame. I liked the products and the people, but the overreaching corporate monopolistic power trip Sonova has been on lately makes this an easy decision. Patients understand. I tell them I stopped selling those brands because their parent company is essentially competing with me. There are other brands just as good. Patients just want you to keep your doors open so you can keep helping them. Sonova’s moves may encourage another manufacturer or two to step up and really support independent and/or healthcare-oriented practices.


    • Rick Usifer
      March 12, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      Rich – yes, it is a bizarre world we live in. It’s like some kind of post-apocalypse sci-fi movie. Sonova owns two dispensing companies (Hearing Planet, Connect Hearing) which compete against each other. Both of them will now be undercut by Costco, to which Sonova sells Phonak hearing aids at prices that are unmatchable even by those companies. Who is the evil overlord at Sonova who is chortling and watching all this as dispensing offices scream in anger at their poor Phonak reps?


    • khar59
      June 15, 2014 at 3:30 pm

      Nothing wrong with Hearing Planet. They still sell hearing aids at the same price my audiologist is.

      They sent me to an audiologist in my city for the fitting and hearing tests as well. So they were still supporting the profession. If I hadn’t bought the aids from the Hearing Planet, that same Audiologist was going to sell them to me at double the price, which I would never have been able to afford at $10,000.


      • Dan Schwartz
        June 17, 2014 at 3:49 pm

        Hearing Planet is owned by Sonova (Phonak), so when you call, you’ll be “steered” to getting a Phonak or Unitron hearing aids. As of April 28th, 2014, Starkey has halted all sales to Hearing Planet; and I know from a Hearing Planet patient I fit in March that GN ReSound also will not sell to them: We had to buy the aids directly from GNR and they cut us a checque.


        • khar59
          June 19, 2014 at 10:55 am

          Interesting, because 9 years ago when I bought my Savia’s I had done the research online and I decided I wanted that model of Phonak so I sent an enquiry and they sent me to the audiologist for the hearing evaluation to see if they were suitable for my loss.

          This time around I wanted my Phonaks but the new Audi tried to steer me to oticon which I wasn’t sure about trying.


  3. Steve Herzler
    March 14, 2014 at 12:04 am

    Oh, how the times are a changin’. Embrace the future, boggie chiilens. I am a 30+ year audiologist in this field and have survived the fall of the Beltone network, done the private practice gig to sell off and have seen the trend. Now, I work for Costco and get to fit good stuff to people that they pay less for. I don’t worry about the biz part anymore and do what I looked for in my education, helping people hear better. Don’t discount the fitters. I are one. Differentiate yourself if you want to survive in a changing world.


    • Laura
      April 18, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      I for one believe my 8 year degree and multiple years of experience are worth more than the 25.00 and hour that Costco pays its fitters. I also find it hard to understand how you can align yourself with a company who treats our degree the same as a cashier who went through the Costco Hearing Aid training program.


      • Anonymous A
        April 18, 2014 at 1:16 pm

        Laura,

        I agree and I disagree with some of your opinions. Yes, your degree and experience are worth a great deal. But only to some of the folks that agree to be fitted, and have the capital to afford to pay. If a business is able to buy a product, and sell it for a profit, who are we to tell they can’t? Don’t we live democratically?

        Now, that doesn’t mean that said patient is going to be happy. If the fitter lacks the experience then the patient is not going to be fitted correctly, and ultimately isn’t helped. But what if the patient is mild/moderate? What happens if the fitter is competent? What happens if that patient is able to save money, and uses the extra money to take their grandchildren to Disney World, while they hear more clearly?

        What?

        I didn’t hear your answer?


  4. Jena Scherer
    March 14, 2014 at 6:57 am

    As we are fighting to be recognized as autonomous doctors of audiology I find it shameful we stand by and allow manufacturers to dictate and drive the future, or lack there of, our profession. By Phonak selling directly to Costco I clearly now see they are not concerned about the patient and quality of care-they simply care about selling widgets- and as many as possible. I have been a loyal Phonak provider for many years and remember when Phonak cared about practitioners and wanted to help us provide good products and excellent care to our patients. As professionals we need to wake up and realize unless we take back control of our profession it will no longer be ours and we will continue to be cut out of the picture over time. I truly hope audiologists wake up and start looking at the future of our overall profession. Even if this does not directly affect you at this point in your work as an audiologist it will at some point. I believe we can turn this around but it’s going to take us standing up, sticking together and applying pressure and leverage. I recommend all of you to contact the ADA and AAA to request representation on this important and pressing issue. The worst thing we can do is think we as individuals can not make a difference… if we don’t fight these problems then who will? There is power in numbers and if enough of us take a solid stand it will make a difference. We need forums to discuss these significant issues and how to combat them and take our profession back since I am confident we are the best providers of hearing care-not big box retailers. What is next??? Walgreens??? Be aware. STAND UP! DO SOMETHING!

    One final thought… with these changes we are seeing with big box retailers and manufacturers selling out-would you recommend a young person go into this profession???

    If manufactures like Phonak really want to reach more people and allow more people to get hearing aids more affordably then I suggest they lower their prices to practitioners so we can do our specialty in a professional setting and get people into good hearing aids with excellent and appropriate service at lower prices.


  5. Anonymous
    March 14, 2014 at 12:53 pm

    At the end of the day, its all about the $. Crying to the ADA or AAA or AHSA wont make any difference. They have no say in what prices phonak can set or who they can sell to. If they could then Resound and Siemens would have had no success at Costco. Do not be naive people. Its all about business. Power in numbers had no effect on hearing aid specialists becoming what they are now. Pretty soon HIS/HAS will be in the VA or supporting the VA. Its all about $. Remember.

    [Editor's Note: The dollar sign "$" sequence was edited to remove two of the symbols, as some browsers interpret it as a command, with unanticipated display results. DLS]


  6. Steve
    March 14, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    This turn of events is certainly not surprising to me. I have been dispensing for 22 years and felt it was just a matter of time before all mfgs looked to jump into the Costco pool. However, rather than being upset at the mfgs for their lack of loyalty to our industry or to its professionals, my source of consternation with them is their unwillingness to give us pricing that is at least close to Costco pricing. To me, that is the bottom line. The mfgs spin that the Costco patient is different from the independent clinic patient is BULL. The truth of the matter is if I could get pricing close to Costco’s, then my price would only be 300-400 more per aid than Costco’s. I could EASILY justify to a patient why I’m worth 300-400 more than Costco over the life of the aid. But, when my retail cost is 2-3x that of Costco because my wholesale cost is also 2-3x more than Costco, then its very difficult for any patient to justify that large of a price difference even if I was the Mother Theresa of service.

    Obviously, I will no longer support Phonak. However, my concern is when all Big 6 mfgs are in the Costco pool, who will I order from from? Audina??? Maybe I’ll have to sell my practice and work for Costco.

    I’m all for lower prices to the consumer. Just sell it to ME for a price close to Costco’s. This means for all these years, the mfgs were perfectly willing and able to sell top end product for a third to a half of what they sell it to us for if the right account came along. Well played gentlemen(and women). Well played. We should all feel like schmucks.


    • Jim...
      July 28, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      I’m a consumer not an Audiologist. I’m retired and can’t afford $5K plus for hearing aids. If that has to be my cost then my wife will just have to yell louder.

      I’m curious if any of you know what the typical margin is for hearing aid manufacturers?

      It sounds to me like the the only ones getting rich here are the manufacturers.


      • Karen
        August 1, 2014 at 10:49 am

        Well I for one am glad that the middle man no longer has the upper hand. I was happy when I discovered hearingplanet.com back in 2005 when I bought my Savia’s. I am even happier today when I’ve upgraded to the Virto Q Series because my insurance is finally covering them. However, my insurance annoys me because they made a so-called deal with Iowa Methodist who mainly supplies Medicaid patients with their aides. I could have got them for $2500 cheaper, plus had the Compiliot Package for free had the insurance not tied my hands.

        Now I have to pay $1700. I really needed someone to just give me the consumers choice to shop around and save my Insurance company money myself.

        I think this is a good thing. I don’t think you need to sell the hearing aids to do your job. I should be able to buy them and have an audiologist fit them. Believe me, there are some computer deficient audiologists out there too. Even some bad hearing testers as well.

        I was born hard of hearing and I’m 55 years old and I know what I want.

        Thank you audiologists for your service, as I know I need a good one.


  7. Rebecca
    March 14, 2014 at 6:01 pm

    Steve, you hit the nail on the head. As a private practice audiologist for over 20 years, I feel like I (and my patients)are expected to SUBSIDIZE these low prices that Phonak is giving to Costco. Let’s face it; Costco is not paying what I pay. It cost no more to manufacture a hearing aid for my patient than it does for a Costco member. So why am I expecting to pay more?

    For years we were led to believe that hearing aids cost so much to produce because of research and development and the RFC factor. Truth is, and Costco proves it, WE have been overcharged all along.

    I left Resound when they did this and I will probably leave Phonak because of this. But not before I ask for a substantial discount on my devices.


  8. Janet Larsen
    March 15, 2014 at 7:41 am

    Thank you for the post. I’m an independent owner of 30+ years and have been loyal to Phonak for more than half of that time. I stuck with them throughout the years because I felt they lead in technology and service. As the other manufacturers caught up to and even passed them in some areas, I still stayed with them. We were “partners”.

    Well, that loyalty stops today. I plan to return my Phonak product and start fitting comparable products like Starkey. From what I hear, Starkey had initial discussions with Costco, but turned them down. A difficult financial decision I’m sure. I for one will reward them with my business.

    A message to Phonak, “I sure hope it’s worth it because there’s no going back.”


  9. Theresa Bartlett
    March 15, 2014 at 9:50 am

    So I stopped fitting Phonak hearing aids like I stopped fitting GN Resound hearing aids, got that. But what next? I now turn to yet another hearing aid manufacturer and start purchasing products from them for the same price that someone is buying a hearing aid from Costco?

    I have read all the other comments and am in agreement with most. I believe that Phonak must have seriously considered the consequences of selling their product in Costco. So, if they “did the math” and determined that it doesn’t matter if we stop selling their product as long as they are in Costco, then what does that tell us? That they could sell their product to us for the same price as they are selling to Costco (as mentioned in an earlier comment). So what is the real problem here? We are being taken advantage of. We have been willing to pay the price for hearing aids that the manufacturers set for us. We never balked, we never complained, we just did.

    I could care less if Phonak is selling to Costco or if any of the manufacturers sell to Costco as long as they are selling technology to me for the same price. I think that this is a defining moment in our industry…that it is time to come together and have a discussion with ALL the manufacturers about hearing aid pricing. It is obvious now, that they can afford to lower their costs to us, they are just choosing not to do it. And wouldn’t it be wonderful? We could have a Win-Win-Win solution where the manufacturers win, we win and most importantly the hearing impaired person wins!

    In Audiology we have too many organizations dividing our time, money and interests. In the hearing aid world we do as well…..EPIC, HearPO, TruHearing, HearUSA, AHB, and not to mention the buy-in groups like AHAA, Elite, etc. No wonder this is happening.

    Unfortunately I can complain with the best of us… but this isn’t the way to handle our concerns. We have to ACT.

    Theresa Bartlett
    Virginia Hearing Consultants
    Norfolk, VA


    • Beverly
      October 8, 2014 at 6:40 pm

      Please note that as a consumer scam outfits like HearPO and Amplifon are a nightmare to deal with. Their goal is to get the highest price from the consumer and then leave you out in the cold with no service after they have your money. I would much rather *pay* an audiologist and have a choice of buying the aids from a reputable place with legitimate business policies.


  10. Anonymous in Indy
    March 15, 2014 at 2:12 pm

    I’m not saying they are right. Shareholders are king.
    Simple math—- 500 Costco’s (including a few international locations) averaging 20 Brio’s per month is 10,000 units per month. This is a guess, but say $675 per unit(special Costco price) x 10,000 is $ 6,750,000.00 per month x 12 = $ 81,000,000.00 Also, Costco is growing faster than anyone 20+% per year. How could anyone (Sonova) resist this reality. Do these numbers look accurate?


    • PA Provider
      March 15, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      Yes, the math makes sense. No one can deny the fact that the Costco deal is worth a lot of money to Sonova. That said, Phonak will not easily replace the losses that they will have from the independent channel. All of us need to stand against Phonak and send them a clear message. Support the manufacturers that support us. That’s simple math too.


      • Tazz
        March 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm

        Couldn’t agree more.

        Phonak has made it clear- money talks. It’s time for dispensers and audiologists (collectively) to learn to speak that language. If you haven’t done so yet, STOP supporting HearingPlanet, and stop supporting all Sonova subsidiaries.


  11. Michale Bruk
    March 15, 2014 at 6:28 pm

    Dear All,
    As a Professional with an almost 40 years of experience in 3 countries and last 7 years of working for Costco, this would be my suggestion: ” If you cannot compete, join!”

    Sincerely,

    Michael


  12. John Consumer in Bel Air, MD
    March 16, 2014 at 12:45 pm

    As a business-owner, I completely understand the sentiment to not do business with Phonak. However, ask yourself why Starkey turned down Costco. It’s not because they care about the independent audiologist; they want to keep earning the ridiculous margins that they have now!

    The business model needs to change completely. Hearing aids should be provided wholesale by MFGs at a profitable price where R&D is still encouraged. Servicing those products (and the resulting revenue stream) should be separate from the aid itself.


    • Rick
      March 19, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Would the real wholesale price of a hearing aid please stand up!

      The VA was getting them for under $400 each.

      My wholesale price is about $1350 each
      We’re looking at a $900 ea+ difference in our wholesale price and Costco’s price.

      This is price discrimination which fosters cartels – and backroom deals. The Costco doublespeak word for it is Competition.

      The antitrust Robinson Patman law says you have to show a difference in cost to sell to someone for less – if you are hurting the competition.

      So are you telling me it costs $1900 additional to put two little hearing aids in a box and mail it to me? BS. Anyone can buy these for $400 each and mail them out for $425 each and make profit all day long.

      Would the real wholesale price of a hearing aid please stand up!

      Scot – and others – please file and antitrust suit against Costco and Phonak.

      100% of us can compete with Costco if we get fair pricing!

      Look up “Robinson-Patman Violations” at this FTC link
      Or the Sherman Act

      To invoke the provisions of the Robinson-Patman Act, certain jurisdictional elements must be established. The act applies only (1) to sales (2) in commerce (3) of commodities (4) of like grade and quality. The sales requirement excludes transfers, leases, or consignment sales from the act’s provisions. Other transfers that do not meet the legal definition of a sale, such as an offer or bid, are not covered by the act. Finally, the plural sales is important. The act applies only where there are two completed sales to different purchasers at different prices. The commerce specification requires at least one of the sales to be in interstate commerce, meaning that the goods must have physically crossed a state line.

      How about the International Hearing Society, and other hearing organizations filing antitrust suits!

      I’d donate to that cause.

      Rick / Oregon


      • Hunter
        March 31, 2014 at 10:13 am

        Why not all join in an anti-trust suit like the ones that have against the manufacturers of different products and medications that kill!


  13. Jamal
    March 28, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    I sent an email to my inside and outside Phonak rep, their supervisors, the Phonak VP, and Phonak president. I think everyone have been faithful to Phonak and Phonak did not care what we might go through by them to Costco, they should do the same what we are planing to do at least they feel more pain. Please read the rest.

    This is the email I sent to them:

    We are very disappointed by being betrayed by Phonak and by those who should have been supporting us. We’ll give you some history on how we chose Phonak as our main vendor.

    In the past we used to work directly with GN ReSound but when they went to Costco we were damaged greatly. We lost many clients, many were angry because they thought we were cheating them on price. They trusted us and were faithful to us for many years. We not only lost many of them, we received a lot of returns and that caused the loss of a great amount of revenue.

    First day when Mr. Chris Bailey and his manager were in my office we told them how greatly we had been damaged and disappointed by GN ReSound going to Costco, and they said you’d never see Phonak in Costco.

    In the past two years we sold close to 500 Phonak hearing aids to almost 300 patients of ours. We spoke highly of Phonak products and told them they would not see Phonak among the junk hearing aids in Costco. Phonak going to Costco does not only make us look bad but also reduces Phonak’s image to that of the other products sold at Costco.

    We are more upset by not being informed in advance from those people at Phonak who we trust. They knew Phonak intended to go to Costco and still kept us in the dark and let us state to our patients that they can not put Phonak products at the Costco level.

    Now we have over 30,000 mailers which cost us over $11,000 going out after April with the Phonak logo on it, we are advertising for Costco. We want to know who should we send the bill to, Phonak or Costco? We told Mr. Chris Bailey that we are not going to sell any product that is available at Costco because we believe people shopping at Costco should buy grocery products and tires at that type of business. Any hearing aid manufacturer putting their product in Costco reduces their reputation to a piece of pie. I bet you have heard that from many loyal customers.

    We have over 20 units out on free trial, we have over 20 units in stock and 20 units on customers within the 3 months return policy. Our remaining balance with Phonak is $50,000. We will wait to see what happens to those trials because we believe many of those sales and trials will be returned and will be huge loss of revenue we have seen the same thing happen when GN ReSound went to Costco. Your outside representative gave us a verbal promise that Phonak would never be in Costco 2 years ago. We will calculate our losses due to Phonak going to Costco and will settle our balance after that.

    Our office is surrounded by Costco outlets. One is 5 blocks south and the other is 40 blocks north.

    If you have any questions please contact us.


  14. Rick
    March 29, 2014 at 2:15 am

    All of this crying will do no good.

    Sonova is selling Phonak hearing aids at an unfair price to Costco.

    They are using the Phonak name built on the backs of fitters and Audiologists, to do this – which is a despicable unfair business practice.

    This will drive independents out of business – which serves their purpose.

    Their spin is simply a different way of distributing their product – but they cannot show good reason to sell at this large a discount to Costco.

    Any average Audiologist and Hearing aid specialist can do fine selling at a Costco price if we get their wholesale price.

    IHS AAA – etc. and all major Hearing organizations need to File an anti-trust suit.

    Of course – don’t use your name, as thwarting tens of millions of dollars in “competition” – or backroom cartel deals – might put your your family at risk.

    Rick / Oregon


    • Bubba
      May 5, 2014 at 4:09 pm

      That’s like saying Chevy dealers are responsible for the Chevy brand. Phonak has no obligation to support your business. You buy hearing aids and sell them, end of relationship.


      • Rick
        May 5, 2014 at 6:07 pm

        Bubba –
        This came in as a reply to my post and I’m not sure I understand.

        My main point is that there are antitrust laws to prevent companies from wholesaling for less to one vendor than another – without showing just reason. That is unfair trade and leads to corruption and damaging business and the consumer – in the long run. If you sell for company for less – you have to show a proportionate reason for doing so.
        Costco has a policy of dropping a vendor if they are caught selling for the same price or less to someone else – but there can be no proportionate justification for selling to Costco for less than half our wholesale price.

        If we were purchasing for the price Costco is, most of us could easily compete.

        Rick from Oregon


  15. David
    March 29, 2014 at 10:34 am

    From a new consumer’s perspective, I found out Phonak was going into Costco last month shortly after trying Hearing Planet and Phonak Audéo Q70 hearing aids. After two visits, I knew the dispenser was not comfortable with the Phonak Target software, so I returned them.

    I suffer with tinnitus, but only a mild hearing loss. I enjoyed the hearing aids. I went to a Doctor of Audiology, had a much more complete examination, and am being fitted with Phonak hearing aids on Monday. I discussed with him his reaction to the Costco deal. He, too, is a strong advocate for Phonak and dispenses them more than anything else. He said he would not have a knee-jerk reaction at this time.

    I’m a professional as well, not involved in audiology, but I’m no stranger to serving the needs of the deaf and hard of hearing. There have been tremendous changes in our industry. There are some who are making half the hourly rate they were earning in the mid-’90s.

    You all provide a very valuable service and I’m sure you want what’s best for your clients. It saddens me that so many of you supported Phonak because you feel they’re top-of-the-line and now are abandoning them for what may be lesser technology. Like some of you said, it’s all about business. Apparently, that applies to both sides.

    My doctor earned my confidence with his exam (I’ve had one had Costco as well) his compassion, and his knowledge. Because of that, he also earned my money.

    I have no idea what you pay for hearing aids and how much less Costco is paying. Again, from a consumer’s point of view, it seems ridiculous that I can buy a computer for $500, about the same as a pair of glasses, but hearing aids are 10 times more.

    Thanks for the work you do in helping the deaf and hard of hearing. I’m sorry that big business is affecting your profession as it has mine.


    • Dan Schwartz
      March 29, 2014 at 2:39 pm

      David, each of the “Big Six” hearing aid manufacturers — Mineapolis-based Starkey, Germany-based Siemens, Denmark-based GN ReSound, Oticon, and Widex, and Switzerland-based Sonova (Phonak & Unitron) all build reliable, effective digital hearing aids, and for most patients any of these instruments will serve the hearing impaired very well, with the differences between the manufacturers less significant between them vs the individual mfr’s differences between their premium, midline and basic lines, i.e. Widex 440-330-220, Phonak Q90-Q70-Q50, GN ReSound 900-700-500 series, and so forth. What’s more, when one manufacturer offers a new audiologic “feature” the others follow suit. For example, nanocoating for reliability is now standard everywhere, and frequency lowering is available from five of the Big Six (save Oticon).1

      Just like with passenger cars, hearing aid manufacturers have concentrated on differentiating themselves by their “features” such as Bluetooth connectivity, ingress protection (dust and waterproofing as trumpeted in their IPxx ratings), and so forth. More important is the skill and clinical judgment of the hearing aid fitter adjusting the instruments: A good dispenser knows through experience exactly what you need to hear better, and can squeeze more out of mid-level hearing aids than a wet-behind-the-ears fitter can do with premium instruments with all of her buttons to push and knobs to turn, but in fact who is actually “chimping it” by programming in the default targets.

      Bootnotes:
      1) Oticon’s parent company Wm Demant also owns Bernafon, which has perhaps the best frequency lowering technology using true subharmonic synthesis.


  16. Hunter
    March 31, 2014 at 10:24 am

    I am the office manager at Leonardi Hearing. Years ago my husband and I owned a gallery in Wisconsin. What is happening to the Hearing aid industry is the same thing that happened with the limited edition prints from the different companies we dealt with. They were selling to anyone and everyone and would just make the edition sizes higher. More money for them less sales for us. They would sell to people at a discounted price less than we were paying. Consequently they had lower overhead etc. Needless to say we closed our gallery because we couldn’t compete with “those” places. Disgusting!
    BKA


  17. Bdcolen
    May 10, 2014 at 8:26 am

    I am an auditorily challenged 67-year-old consumer, not an independent audiologist, and I see the move of these high-end brands to Costco as nothing but positive. I have been served for almost two decades by a wonderful private audiology practice. But having no insurance coverage for hearing aids. – who does? – I always have to buy aids that are far from ideal, and that negatively impacts every area of my life; literally. I have stayed away from Costco thus far because a., I like my audiologist and am very happy with the service I receive, and b., there is something disconcerting about the idea of going to a Big Box for a medical service and device. But times change, and I can change with the times. If Costco can provide me with the new iPhone-linked generation of hearing aids – the least of which will vastly improve my hearing compared to what it is with the aids I have now, and do so for what I now pay for aids, I’m sorry, but I’m there. I understand that I will not get the personal relationship and service I now receive, but if I can hear my work colleagues substantially better and at an affordable price, and I can actually hear what people are saying to me on my iPhone when they call, I can and will forgo the personal touch.


    • Dan Schwartz
      May 10, 2014 at 8:43 am

      Maybe you are not getting the service you need from your “wonderful private audiology practice” as Bluetooth connectivity has been provided for hearing aids for several years now, via the Oticon Streamer, ReSound/Beltone Phone Clip+, Phonak/Unitron ComPilot, etc… devices, which act as a “bridge” between your iPhone or any Bluetooth-enabled phone and your hearing aids. In the first half of 2013 (the last period from which I have industry data) a full 70% of hearing aids sold and 80% of BTE’s have wireless capability already built in, so all you need to do is find out if your present hearing aids have this capability.

      The ReSound hearing aids Costco sells are a generation behind current state-of-the-art.


      • Bdcolen
        May 10, 2014 at 9:50 am

        .You seem not to have read my post. Indeed I am getting good service, and know that there are far better options than the aids I have. But for the inferior products I have I am paying MORE than I will be paying Costco for this latest technology. My interest is not in YOUR profit, or, to be perfectly honest and cold, in your business; it is in my getting the best technology a price I can afford. And the arrival of this new generation of aids seems to have brought me to the tipping point at which cost outweighs service and personal relationship.


        • Dan Schwartz
          May 11, 2014 at 2:39 pm

          Yes, I read your comment very carefully, and replied acordingly, specifically as to the wireless capabilities that may indeed already be built into the instruments hanging on your ears right now, as you read this. Wireless mobile phone connectivity and streaming audio reception capability via the Bluetooth HSP and A2DP protocols has been available since approximately 2008 when Oticon and Phonak released their Streamer and iCom devices; with the other manufacturers soon following suit.

          If you desired wireless functionality when you purchased your latest pair of hearing aids and was not offered this valuable option by your so-called “wonderful private audiology practice,” then you were poorly served. Deal.With.It.


          • bdcolen
            May 11, 2014 at 2:46 pm

            I have been made well aware that there are numerous improvements – including wireless – I could get if I wanted to pay for them. And if my audiologist responded to me as you do, I would have been at Costco years ago. It’s no surprise you’re losing business. ;-)


  18. Jeremy
    May 18, 2014 at 8:31 am

    Have you ever thought of forming a buying cooperative so you can purchase the aids at bulk prices? As a hearing aid user, I would much prefer using a private audiologist to going to Costco, but the price difference is too great. 30 to 50% difference cannot be justified. You will go the way of the small pharmacy, if you do not get together and help each other out.


  19. Janice
    September 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    As a consumer who’s husband has hearing loss, I am so grateful to have read this blog. I for one am disgusted in the nearly unanimous decision by independent audiologists to stop selling Phonak aids now that Costco is selling them. Your decision to take the Phonak product out of the mix of what you offer your patients is a disservice to those who seek your aid. I hope your patients understand that they will not receive the opportunity to choose from the entire universe of products AND that they will be steered to another product that may not meet their needs as well as your blacklisted products potentially could. Shame on you. Your decision to stop offering Phonak – and other aids – to your patients is no different than Phonak selling to Costco. It’s all about your profit margins but at least consumers have the ability to purchase this premium product at a reasonable cost. If you really have the welfare of the hearing impaired population in your hearts, then your profession needs to change it’s business model from selling products to servicing the consumers who purchased them.


    • Dan Schwartz
      September 23, 2014 at 1:19 pm

      Janice, you are making an assumption that Phonak produces the “best” hearing aid of the “Big Six” manufacturers, when in fact each of them can cover maybe 99% of people who need hearing aids. What’s more, in my opinion as a longtime hearing aid user as well as dispensing engineer, there is no single Phonak hearing aid that is “best of breed” for any specific design or need, witht he possible exception of wireless CROS/BiCROS. Don’t get me wrong: Phonak builds some very good hearing aids, and their

      is “best of breed” (but very pricey) for assistive listening systems.

      Don’t get me wrong: Phonak hearing aids at Costco prices can be a good value, with the proviso that they are fit and programmed properly — But I’ve seen & heard both customer compliments and complaints, and it seems to vary widely by location, so çaveat emptor.


  20. John Rausch
    October 3, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    After several years of suffering from Meniere’s in my right ear, it went away but left me with hearing loss. It’s annoying, very annoying, but the prices kept me away. Yesterday, I bought a hearing aid from Costco. The hearing “person” spent plenty of time with me and fitted me with a demo hearing aid programmed for me and I walked around the store for about 45 minutes. I almost forgot I had it on. I have a three-year warranty, two year free replacement for any reason and 90 days to return it for every penny back. Batteries are $8 for 40.

    Today, I thought maybe I should see a “professional”, the one recommended by my ENT, one of the most respected in my part of the country. Just so happened I could get in at the end of the day. I stopped and picked up my last three hearing test results at my doctor’s office. The doctor of audiology looked at the tests and told me she recommended only one brand, Widex. She listed four prices levels from $2,700 to $5,700 for two ears, half for my one ear. The top two were thought best for me. This without any test in her office, nor any ability to fit me with a demo so I could see how it sounds. She billed my insurance for an office visit. My tests were from 2009 to 2011, and she was ready to sell me a hearing aid, the hearing test and fitting would happen when it arrived.

    There is a big problem with seniors being ripped off for hearing aids, cataract surgery and glasses. Costco has pretty much fixed the hearing aid and glasses issue.

    You all say the manufacturers are charging you close to what Costco is selling them for and assume Costco is buying them for about half of what they sell them fo. That is not Costco’s policy. Typically, they mark everything up 15%. I can understand a higher markup on hearing aids because of the fitting expense. If you go to Costco, you will see there are many brands they do not sell, Apple, for example. This is not because they don’t want to, it’s because manufacturers will not allow there products to be sold that cheap.

    Hearing aids cannot possibly cost more than $100 to make. It’s a huge rip off from the get go and the hearing aid “professionals” are in on it. I don’t feel at all sorry for them. Nor Lexotica, the Italian eyeglasses monopoly.


    • Dan Schwartz
      October 4, 2014 at 10:47 am

      John, sadly your experience with your ENT’s audiologist is all-too common. One suggestion I would give you since you have a unilateral hearing loss is to get a ReSound Verso hearing aid (I think they are now selling it under the Kirkland brand — The dispenser will know) instead of the Phonak Brio, as for the given technology/price points it has better noise reduction processing.


      • John Rausch
        October 4, 2014 at 12:24 pm

        Dan Schwartz,

        Thanks for your advise. I will be trying a Rexton Chariso 2C, RIC starting next Tuesday. I was fitted and able to walk around Costco for about 45 minutes on Thursday. Once slightly distracted, I almost forgot about it. Probably 4 programs for the first two weeks, Auto, +3, -3 and maybe Restaurant. I tried +6 and -6 in the store, but one was too loud, the other too soft. If unsatisfactory, I will look into the ReSound Verso. Thanks.


        • Dan Schwartz
          October 4, 2014 at 12:31 pm

          Rexton is made by a division of Siemens, and like ReSound, the version sold at Costco is one generation behind. The new aids based on the Siemens Micon chip are outstanding, but that’s not what you’ll get at Costco. On The Other Hand, the aids built on the Verso have better noise reduction capability, and a better remote control.

          HINT: I can get anything, and I wear the Verso. :-)


    • Anonymous A
      October 4, 2014 at 11:07 am

      JR, First off I’m very glad that you got help. It’s vital to get the hearing help when it’s needed.

      Your experiences are not the same worldwide. And because situations happen to YOU, doesn’t make them ALWAYS and FOREVER in every place with every fitter. There are wonderful knowledgeable fitters in many places. Just the same for doctors of audiology. Whatever your profession is, that’s your specialty. For someone who knows little about it, to make accusations and wild claims only based on their own experiences would be foolish. Wouldn’t you agree? Are you a professional in the hearing aids business? How about cataract surgery? How about optical? You sound to me like you are bitter about a few things. In the end, you are entitled to your opinion, as I am on mine of your remarks. Opinions are like tushies, everyone has one.


      • John Rausch
        October 4, 2014 at 12:16 pm

        Mr. or Ms. Anonymous A, whoever you are,

        I know a lot more about cataract surgery and hearing aids that you presume. I have more than one close friend that performs cataract surgery and I have several who have paid more than 3 times what they charge for basic implants and only slightly more for special implants. Most of the rip offs for cataract surgery happen in retirement locations like Sedona (rich peoplem, right), Phoenix and most of Florida. Same for Hearing aids and glasses — I have a few friends, but not close ones, in the business. They complain about the wholesale price of lenses and hearing aids. Most charge double, or more, the wholesale price.

        The complaining should be to the hearing aid manufacturers about the outrageous prices they charge everyone, including Costco.

        I have more than a dozen friends or acquaintances who have paid well in excess of $4,000 for hearing aids far less complicated that any cell phone or tablet. One paid $7,000 and they are worth a damn. It’s a rip off, plain and simple. For way too many years, this has been able to go on at the expense of people who need to hear. Do you have any idea how much $4,000 to $5,000 is to people living on a fixed income, often less than $40,000 per year? If you want to do something, figure out a way to bring the issue before Congress, or even a news program like 60 Minutes so the rip off can be at least exposed. But you won’t be able to do this as Anonymous A.


        • Dan Schwartz
          October 4, 2014 at 12:44 pm

          What’s happening is that the pressure is on the industry to unbundle the cost of the hearing aids from the follow-up services, which is Good for the Consumer.

          On The Other Hand, I can also tell you that the margins aren’t so great in dispensing hearing aids, as the cost of overhead and advertising is a big driver, as sales volumes are pretty low, with a typical store in a strip shopping center selling about 20 aids/month. Advertising runs about 8% of gross sales; and rent, utilities & salary for a receptionist/technician runs about $6-7k/month. Also, not every pair of hearing aids sells for $7000: Many dealers have a “no walk” policy for low income patients, with basic aids selling for as little as $2000/pair.

          What’s more, for working age people, their state Department of Vocational Rehabilitation (“voc rehab”) will often chip in, or even pay for, hearing aids as part of a job plan.


          • John Rausch
            October 4, 2014 at 1:37 pm

            Dan Schwartz,

            Thanks for the replies. Sensible, unemotional information.

            Things are changing and there’s no way to stop it. Boycotts and other “stand your ground” actions are not going to work. People are already rebelling against Luxottica’s takeover of the eyeglass industry. Most don’t know they own every brand that we have thought of as American standards (RayBan, for example), and make all of the “designer” frames. Consumers are not going to stand for it. My daughter buys from glasses.com for way under $100 and is very satisfied. What should be happening, is the scale of Luxottica’s business should be bringing prices down, not making them astronomical.

            Doctor friends of mine are having problems too. They would have a small clinic and do well with a common staff of admin and nurses, but hospitals are buying them out. To avoid that. they are in large group practices with several locations and doing fine. Most are large enough that you don’t have to go to a hospital for many surgeries unless you must stay overnight. They could never afford to operate alone — the very best are all in these large group clinics. One doctor who had his small group bought by a hospital (the owner sold out) had a W2 with $89,000 on it. That is way out of line for one of the top doctors in a market area. He started a boutique concierge practice limited to 400 patients.

            The way professional services is going to continue to change. If you made hearing aids, would you rather sell to one large company that paid their invoices on time a thousands of small ones that often don’t. Costco’s position puts the manufacturers on the stop to produce quality, affordable products. Unlike Walmart, they are looking for top of the line products and they can dictate changes when they don’t believe something is in the best interest of the customer. I believe this is good for everyone, except for the independents that are charging way too much for their products and services. Maybe there are too many hearing aid businesses if they have to make a good living selling 20 pair of hearing aids a month and still pay, rent, staff, etc. Maybe there should be fewer individual haring aid businesses with more audiologists in groups sharing a staff and charging people less. Not saying these thoughts are exactly what must happen, but *something* must happen. Compete, don’t complain.

            After years of not wanting to pay the prices I was quoted for a hearing aid, now I will have one — from Costco. It was convenient, I was able to choose what I wanted without pressure, the service was superb, I was able to try them for as long as I wanted in or around the store and the price was better than I have seen except for mail order. Had I been able to go to a group location where I know they will be there from year to year and pay a *little* more, I would have likely done it.

            If organized and possibly part of, not associated with, an ENT group, it might be possible to get Medicare to cover some of the cost, but this is not going to happen with the “professional” people, some with a lot of education, some with not so much, running independent shops, some professional in character and operation, some like the local donut shop like exist now.

            There is no choice but adapt.


            • Dan Schwartz
              October 4, 2014 at 3:01 pm

              The problem with the Costco-Phonak deal was that they could have flown it “under the radar” with their Sona brand (which was folded into Unitron a couple years ago), or even possibly Unitron itself, as their hearing aids are somewhat distinct from Phonak’s, much as Bernafon aids are somewhat distinct from Oticon’s. However, it was Costco that insisted on selling under the Phonak label itself — And selling current technology at that — which triggered the explosion, as they had spent many millions of dollars over the years positioning their aids as “premium” products, like Mercedes has done with their cars.

              What’s more, it’s not just the Costco deal by itself, as added to the combustible mix is that Sonova owns 2500 Connect Hearing locations, having first quietly purchased a number of independent practices over the last decade, and then rebranding them as Connect last year.

              Incidentally, we have an unconfirmed report that Starkey hearing aids are sold in the Costco stores in Korea: We checked their website but could not determine for sure, due to language issues.


              By The Way, Luxottica was featured on 60 Minutes earlier this year, with Leslie Stahl reporting~


        • Anonymous A
          October 4, 2014 at 4:29 pm

          Oh gosh, not sure where to start. I don’t presume, but I KNOW that if you are not specialized in that field, you can’t know better than those that are. Just because I have friends who are attorneys doesn’t mean I start quoting the law. Sorry JR it doesn’t work that way.
          How much one pays for hearing aids has little to do whether they work or not. It has to do with whoever programs them, and counsels on their ability to hear.
          Also, what someone can afford or not has little to do with this issue either.
          Lastly I don’t believe that Congress or the government should be responsible for me. I can support myself without their help thank you. I’m not rich or poor. Sounds to me like you are a politician looking to blame someone else for your own issues.


  21. Bdcolen
    October 4, 2014 at 11:04 am

    Here’s what I find fascinating about this entire thread – and that is the the responses from the “professionals” are almost all focused on their “business,” their “degrees,” and their profit margins. Where is the focus on the patient? Eating this endless yammering I come away convinced that you do not see those of us who are hearing impaired as “patients,” who need your “care,” but as customers whom you feel have an obligation to finance your lifestyles. You talk of boycotting Phonak, of filing anti-trust suits? Where is your outrage over the fact that Medicare pays not a dime toward hearing aids, nor to all but a tiny handful of private insurers? You’ve had countless decades to have your professional associations – business clubs – focus on that issue, which really is the issue most important to your patients. You seem to fail to understand that the vast majority of hearing impaired individuals are wearing suboptimal hearing aids because we simply cannot afford to pay the prices you charge for the aids we really need.

    Oh, you say you really care about the patients? That we come first? You’ll have to speak up – I can’t hear you with my mid-range hearing aids.


    • Karen
      October 5, 2014 at 10:50 am

      I don’t really get a response to anything I say, possibly because there can’t be a good one. The hospital audiologists I obtained my HA’s from do primarily fit aids to medicaid patients so they tell me. I think I may have been the first private patient they have had since most insurances don’t cover them, only the tests. I actually went to the DHS site and found information to audiologist on how to bill the govt. The dispenser fee is where they appear to bang on exorbitant prices from what I can see, in my case $1200 which my insurance said they didn’t cover that code!

      Anyhow called to make another appt for some adjustments needed for my new job and well it seems I have to wait until November. Good golly, this is where I will see if I can just go and see a private audi rather than wait that long.


    • Stu
      October 9, 2014 at 8:33 am

      BD — There really isn’t a right or wrong answer. The hearing profession is under attack from within. I’m sorry that most of us take offense to that with defensive reactions. It’s a natural instinct. Right/wrong, I’m not sure. If you are midrange you are fortunate. If fitted correctly you should be fine. But remember the fitter has to be competent.


  22. JDCole
    October 4, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    I understand that price consciousness has made the Phonak Costco deal a big deal for audiologists, but I think it is a bigger deal physcologically than it really is. My experience with Costco fitters has not been good. The hardware is fine, but the people who are doing the fitting are not particularly well trained. When there are difficulties, they don’t have the audiologist’s training to fall back on. I know that there are a lot of people who disagree with my take on this, but audiologists should not market their aids, but should be marketing themselves and what they bring to the fitting. It has made all the difference for me.


  23. John Rausch
    October 9, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Okay, I read all about the service, education, etc. stuff so decided to check with a couple of local places run by doctors of audiology. Here’s my experience:

    1. Free hearing test. Recommended two hearing aids, RIC for $5,500 and change. No demo! By law, maybe Ohio’s, not sure, I have 30 days to return them, but would be charged for exam. Very little discussion about alternatives, he knew what was nest for me.

    2. Doctorate from Ohio State. NO hearing test, just looked at the results from the past 3 from my ENT’s office, last one three years old. Recommended Widex, which I had not heard or read much about. Claimed they are far superior to others, but would order others if I insisted and specified the brand and model. No demo. Just dummy models to pick color. So, I got nothing but a sales pitch and was charged for an exam, turned into my insurance company. They will pay for that, not for the HAs.

    I did this after ordering a Rexton Charismo 2C for my Meniere’s damaged (stabilized) right ear, knowing I could refuse it, return it, whatever. I went 0 for 2 finding “a competent” audiologist. Had I felt confident I was receiving better service, I would have paid more. Cost is NOT everything — I want good service and good product.

    I am now wearing my Rexton for the 3rd day. Ten minutes after I put it on, I forget about it. It works. I have more programs than I need so I can experiment a little before going back in two weeks. The programs are simple, at my request. Just auto, +3, +6 (too much), -3 and noise/party. Go in whenever for adjustment, free cleaning fluid, Miracell (why had I never heard of this for my itchy ear canals?), domes, and I don’t know what else. Batteries are $8.50 for 40. The person that did the hearing test clearly knew what he was doing. He was on vacation for delivery, but the person who did that was also informative. One has 20 year experience, the other more than 10.

    I’m sure there are some outstanding independents operations out there, but with me and others I have talked with (I have many friends with hearing aids and want them (not must have, can hear, just not very well), but scared away by the cost — fear of wasting money), they have a bad reputation because of some rotten ones. No conjecture here in this post, just the facts about my experience.


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