Sonova, the Switzerland-based parent group of Phonak, Unitron, and Hansaton, confirmed that it has been awarded the contract to supply Costco’s Kirkland Signature 9.0 (KS9) hearing aids, as was speculated in recent social media sites and blogs. It will be the first hearing aid that attributes Sonova as the manufacturer.
The KS9 is a unique Size 312 receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) product specifically designed for Costco and powered by the company’s made-for-all (MFA) Sonova Wireless One Radio Digital (SWORD), which provides hands-free universal connectivity to any Bluetooth-enabled cell phone (eg, both iPhone and Android). However, a company spokesperson made it clear that the product is distinct in many important ways from the Unitron Discover and Phonak Marvel product lines, which share the chip set. For example, it is not rechargeable, does not offer tinnitus features or real-time remote fine-tuning, telecoil options, access to Roger devices, and the physical housing is not from the Phonak brand portfolio as some previously speculated. This means the only markings seen on the product is that of the Kirkland Signature brand, with Sonova listed as manufacturer at end of owner’s manual.
Kirkland Signature is the “flagship” premium brand in Costco’s product portfolio, and often dominates sales within its stores—although fairly strong competition from other hearing aid brands have occurred within their outlets, according to those with knowledge of the mass retailer. Previously, Kirkland Signature hearing aids (models KS7 and KS8) were manufactured by Rexton, which is part of the Sivantos group, since 2016. Phonak caused quite a stir in April 2014 as the first global hearing aid brand to supply hearing aids to Costco. Rexton subsequently supplied the early KS4 product line, and GN ReSound took over manufacturing the KS5 and KS6 lines, before Rexton regained the contract.
The Hearing Review has previously estimated that Costco accounts for about 12% of the US hearing aid market. The new KS9 hearing aids will reportedly be priced at $1499.99 for a pair, which is $100 less than the KS8 brand.
Additionally, Phonak says it will be removing Brio 3 RIC products (Phonak ITEs will remain) once KS 9.0 is available. Sonova discontinued its distribution of the Hansaton hearing aid brand in the United States as of June 30.
The Costco Effect, by Leslie Lee, Ron Barrett, and J. Connon Samuel