Sonova Halts Hearing Aid Sales to Costco; Pulls Products and Brochures
Sonova, the largest hearing aid company in the world and the manufacturer of Phonak and Unitron hearing aids, has discontinued the sale and promotion of its products at Costco, according to sources within both companies. HearingTracker was in contact with two Costco Hearing Centers’ employees who were both instructed on Friday (November 18) not to order or sell any Sonova products, and to remove all pamphlets and signs promoting them.
Phonak-branded hearing aids have been discontinued for sale at Costco.
As first reported by HearingTracker in October, Costco discontinued the sale of its Sonova-manufactured Kirkland Signature 10.0 (KS10) hearing aid due to issues with device rechargeability. Although some people close to the situation at Sonova acknowledged rechargeability was an issue, they contend the incidence of problems did not rise substantially above industry norms for lithium-ion rechargeable hearing aids. However, they say Sonova ultimately decided to end sales of the Phonak brand at the retail giant primarily for market-driven reasons.
Sandy Brandmeier, President of Hearing Instruments Wholesale for Sonova USA, released this statement to hearing care professionals as this story was going to press:
Based on our recent assessments, we have made the decision to focus the distribution of our Phonak brand with strategic channels and eliminate our offering in certain large retail chains.
We are also ensuring that customers who want to engage in omni-channel models adhere to a new Phonak brand standards agreement for our prescription devices.
Finally, as part of our brand and channel assessment, we can confirm that the Phonak brand will not be offering an over the counter (OTC) solution.
The Phonak brand stands for leading-edge innovation and deep partnerships with hearing care professionals. We want to continue to partner with those who understand how to convey the powerful technology behind the Phonak brand to improve the lives of people with hearing loss.”
While future Costco sales under other Sonova brands remain hypothetically possible, Costco's reaction to having a major supplier walk away remains unknown. HearingTracker contacted Costco and the company’s management declined comment.
Along with the KS10, Costco’s sales of Phonak Brio hearing aids have also been discontinued, although there are reports Brio may still be available at Costco stores in Canada and possibly other countries.
The KS10, introduced by Costco in April 2021, was offered until October 2022, a span of about 18 months—which is about the “effective shelf life” for a typical Kirkland Signature hearing aid. A successor KS11 product is expected to be announced soon. Sonova had also produced the previous KS9 hearing aid, which had an approximate shelf life of 21 months. There has been speculation among industry analysts that Phonak’s new Lumity hearing aid might serve as the template for the upcoming KS11, but that now appears highly unlikely.
HearingTracker estimates that Costco is the nation's second largest dispenser of hearing aids, following only the VA.
HearingTracker estimates Costco is the second-largest distributor of hearing aids in the United States, with a unit volume market share of about 12-14%, behind only the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) which accounts for about 18% of all hearing aids dispensed in the country.
For those consumers who enjoyed access to Phonak’s cutting-edge hearing technology at a substantially reduced cost, Costco is no longer an option. HearingTracker hopes to see other Sonova brands and technology in Costco in the near future.