Blog Page | November 2016 Hearing Review
In September, Costco quietly rolled out the latest iteration of its Kirkland Signature branded hearing aids in stores across the United States. As reported by HHTM and Hearing Review in August—to the surprise of many analysts and industry insiders—GN ReSound did not have its contract renewed to become the retail giant’s Kirkland Signature brand supplier which it had been since 2013. Instead, confirming weeks of speculation, Sivantos (formerly Siemens) is the new Kirkland Signature hearing aid supplier.
Furthermore, Costco has set the price at $1,699/pair, which is $100 less per pair than the previous generation of Kirkland hearing aids and well below the prevailing premium price at Costco for a pair of hearing aids ($2,598/pair or $1,299 each for most premium-tier devices). The latest generation of Kirkland aids claim a number of advanced features, including wireless capability and compatibility with smartphone apps for Android and iPhone (Figure 1).
Hearing Aid Price Cut Trend Continues
Price reduction for successive generations of Kirkland Signature hearing aids is an ongoing trend. The previous Kirkland hearing aids cost $1,799/pair. Less than 3 years ago, they were $1,899/pair. Costco’s other hearing aids have an online price range of about $500 to $1,500 each.
To place this into perspective, the recent (Feb-Mar 2016) Hearing Review survey revealed a good-better-best technology tier with median prices of $1,500, $2,250, and $3,000, respectively, per aid in what were primarily independent practices. So Costco’s new Kirkland Signature 7.0 premium model price of $850 per aid is $2,150 less per aid than the premium technology aid offered by most independents, and $700 less than independents’ median “economy-level” aids. Not surprisingly, the 2016 HR survey found that economy-level hearing aids had decreased in price by 12% compared to the 2013 survey (CPI adjusted), and the “lowest-priced hearing aid” offered by a private practice now has a median price of $995. Presumably, many of these are used to compete against the mass retailers, including Costco and SAMS Club, when price is the major obstacle to a purchase.
As the biggest US hearing aid provider outside of the VA, Costco’s continued price reductions have influenced the US hearing aid market. Pricing pressure, in addition to calls to lower hearing aid prices from the NAS and PCAST report, has been felt across the industry in recent years, but most acutely by small independent clinics, which rely heavily on revenues generated by hearing aid sales.
Additionally, industry insiders say that there is increasing concern among major hearing aid manufacturers about a perceived shift in focus at Costco’s hearing aid centers, with more emphasis now on Kirkland-branded devices than in prior years: “Costco has changed the strategy with Kirkland; they lowered the end-user price by another $200 for two instruments, so they are down now from $2,000 to $1,800 for two fully fitted instruments, and that’s a brutal low price,” said Sonova CEO Lukas Braunschweiler in a May 2016 Reuters interview. With the continued pressure on price, there appears to be a general sentiment of concern among the major hearing aid suppliers that the companies will have to sacrifice higher levels of support currently offered to hearing care professionals using their products, both inside and outside of Costco.
Brian Taylor, AuD, is the editor of the Hearing News Watch at HearingHealthMatters.org and is Senior Director of Clinical Affairs at Turtle Beach, San Diego.
Original citation for this article: Taylor B. Costco Quietly Launches Kirkland 7.0 Premium Hearing Aids–at Even Lower Price Point. Hearing Review. 2016;23(11):10.
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