Stefan Zimmer to take over from Søren Hougaard as Secretary General of EHIMA


Søren Hougaard and Dr. Stefan Zimmer

As of August 1, 2017, Dr Stefan Zimmer will take over from Søren Hougaard as Secretary General of the European Hearing Instrument Manufacturers Association (EHIMA).

The EHIMA was founded in 1985. Its members include the world’s largest and most advanced hearing aid manufacturers: GN Hearing, Sivantos, Sonova, Starkey, Widex and William Demant. This association, therefore, brings together “competitors” who want to address common issues and challenges. The association is headed by Lukas Braunschweiler, CEO of Swiss group Sonova and President of the association, and Anders Hedegaard, CEO of Danish GN ReSound, who acts as VP of the association.

Dr Stefan Zimmer is the chairman of the German association German Hearing Aid Industry Association (BVHI). He joined this association in 2015, four years after being appointed as General Manager of a Chamber of Commerce for small and medium-sized companies in 2011. During that period, he became familiar with the hearing sector, as his organisation was responsible for the legal control of the German Federal Guild of Hearing Aid Acousticians. Before that, from 2006 to 2011, Stefan Zimmer was in charge of the international relations of the German Social Accident Insurance (DGUV). Among other responsibilities, he was in charge of European Affairs and assisted in defining policies on health and safety in the workplace, healthcare and prevention and healthcare in Europe, Asia and Latin America.

Today he is about to take over from Søren Hougaard, who is looking forward to a well-earned retirement, after seven years as Secretary General of the Association. Søren Hougaard began his career in the hearing world in 1984, at Danish firm Widex. He then joined Sonova in 2002, where he held the position of Manager for the Phonak brand in Denmark. In 2009, he left Sonova to join EHIMA, where was appointed Manager of the senior market development department. One year later, he became the Secretary General of the association.

Søren Hougaard’s track record is studded with remarkable advances in the world of hearing care. Among many accomplishments, he established the EuroTrak project, a series of comprehensive international studies on the hearing care sector, and which Stefan Zimmer intends to continue, given the key contribution these transversal and comparative studies have played in understanding the different markets and the needs of the hearing-impaired. If there was one thing of particular interest to Søren Hougaard, it was ultimately the overall improvement of hearing healthcare; a goal which is set out in the by-laws of the Association. In this sense, the mandate of Søren Hougaard was driven this ultimate goal, by a quest for cohesion among the different representative instances at the European level, which he considered was a paramount necessity: “Six or seven years ago, the World Health Organisation, to name only one example, was unaware of our existence and our activities. Today, we have regular, constructive exchanges with the WHO. This was made possible thanks to the work carried out jointly with the AEA (European Association of Hearing Aid Professionals) which brings together all the national unions of hearing care professionals, EFHOH (European Federation of Hard of Hearing People) and IFHOH, (International Federation of Hard of Hearing People) which represent all the national associations of the hearing-impaired in Europe and at an international level. These efforts to achieve cohesion gave us a global, international voice, which is very exciting!” Søren Hougaard made so many contributions to the sector that it would be impossible to list them all in this article. However, one of his most recent achievements includes the implementation of a Bluetooth standard, common to all manufacturers. This technical simplification could, ultimately, make life easier for the hearing impaired and hearing care professionals alike. In all events, many challenges await Stefan Zimmer. “I wish my successor well in what emerges. I am thinking in particular of the deregulation which threatens the American market with OTCs and other PSAPs (see OTC: debate in Europe on the situation in the US). I believe that now more than ever, we must support and promote the This is a fight that must be continued on behalf of the well-being of the hearing-impaired. I think that if EHIMA is to be successful in this, this will require a dimension that is more international and not only European.”

The editorial teams of Audio infos and Audiology Worldnews join in wishing Søren Hougaard every success in the future.

Guillaume Bureau