Martin Blecker: as soon as you are satisfied you stop evolving

EUHA 2016

Martin Blecker at the EUHA congress

The 61st International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians will start next Wednesday in Hanover (Germany). Audiology Worldnews met EUHA president Martin Blecker and talked with him about the top event of the European hearing industry.

The German Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians has always considered itself international. How do you justify this ambitious claim?

The skills and know-how for providing hearing systems to people with impaired hearing can no longer be limited to a national level. Our predecessors understood that many years ago, and therefore created a platform that is a combination of advanced vocational training and industrial exhibition, the EUHA Congress. The number of visitors speaks for itself, not least in terms of all the different countries they come from. Last year, we welcomed exhibitors and other guests from more than 90 countries, with some 30 to 40 percent of participants coming from non-German-speaking countries. At our Congress, speakers present their studies and findings that are important on national as well as international levels. Most of all, this Congress takes up issues which allow audiologists and acousticians to look beyond the horizons of routine and think outside the box.

What is the benefit for Congress visitors from abroad?

Due to the exchange of ideas and know-how their work will receive new inspirations, in general as well as in detail. With vocational, industrial and political discussions and workshops we can also learn from each other. I prefer sharing knowledge in lectures and workshops, combined with a personal exchange, no matter if this happens at the conference or the exhibition. Does the EUHA cooperate with other foreign organizations in our field?

Kurt Iffland, one of our founders, took the first steps towards cooperating with vocational organizations in other countries. Apart from the VHÖ (Austria) and Akustika (Switzerland), we have established good contacts with the “Union Nationale des Syndicats d’Audioprothésistes Français” (UNSAF), we regularly attend the conventions of the American Academy of Audiology (AudiologyNOW!), and maintain good working relationships with the AEA and the “Bureau International d’Audiophonologie” (BIAP).

Are you satisfied with attendance numbers, from your country and from abroad?

As soon as you are satisfied you stop evolving. At the EUHA, we prefer to continue to develop, to evolve. We are pleased to hear that more than a third of all visitors are foreigners. Demand is high and we always endeavour to adjust our offer to it. For example, with five different workshops we adapt to the request of the participants for more practical issues. And, of course, we are pleased to report on rising numbers of attendees. At 7,500 delegates, the EUHA Congress has come to be the world’s largest convention of its kind.

There is a tendency towards cost-cutting on the convention of the American Academy of Audiology. Are you anticipating a similar development for the EUHA Congress?

It is very clear that we have to take a critical look at the costs. On the other hand, our efforts are aimed at presenting a Congress programme on the best possible level, including topical advanced vocational training, modern exhibition space, and many opportunities for meetings and personal discussions. Last but not least, there should be room for entertainment, too. After all, the participants are humans and as such we can reach them not only by the senses but also by emotions.

Many visitors and exhibitors suggest additional venues like Berlin, Hamburg or Munich. Wouldn’t that increase the attraction of the Congress?

The choice of the location is not as arbitrary as it may seem at first sight. There are only three or four eligible venues in Germany due to the special requirements of the EUHA and the BVHI. Hanover and Nuremberg offer good conditions for lectures, exhibition, service and infrastructure, and last but not least a reasonable relation of prices and services.

As every year, the EUHA has organized a nice supporting programme. Despite the German language, are foreigners welcome?

We all like to get together and relax after work. The evening for FGH partners and the Congress Get-together are ideal opportunities to meet and make acquaintance with other professionals. This year’s Congress Get-together, themed “Folk & Country in Hanover”, will be held at Munich Hall (Münchner Halle) in the exhibition grounds of Deutsche Messe Hanover on Thursday night. It’s a great opportunity for everyone to meet, have a chat, dance, and party in a casual atmosphere. Everything will be ready for an evening packed with action, good music, and culinary treats typical of the Wild West. Costumes to match the theme – in an easygoing western, folklore, or Oktoberfest style – are more than welcome. This is how the Wild West and the Oktoberfest will meet in Hanover.

What are the main Congress issues this year?

The presentations will centre around cognitive abilities, diagnostics, the LTASS, hearing aid fitting, and laser-driven hearing. Tinnitus as well as current issues on hearing protection will also be discussed. Moreover, different speech tests and listening effort will be focussed on and there will be presentations on cochlear implants, CROS/ BiCROS fittings, measuring methods, and innovations in power supply.

Will there be anything special this year?

Of course, there will. Professor Hélène Amieva from Bordeaux has been invited to give the first presentation following the Congress opening ceremony. She will be talking about the benefit of hearing systems and their significance in combating cognitive decline in elderly people with impaired hearing. Her lecture is based on new results from the PAQUID study first published in October 2015, a study launched by the Centre of Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) twenty-five years ago and drawing on the results from thousands of subjects. This will be an exciting presentation offering seminal findings for our line of business.

For all smartphone users, there will be a Congress app, and, once again, we will offer a crèche for all parents who want to attend the Congress without all the hassle. After the Congress, videos will be available in the original-language versions; they can be watched on the EUHA website.

Photos: D.K.

Rainer Hüls, Audio Infos Germany