- Published on 02 April 2020
Hearing care professionals in Germany have faced relatively relaxed coronavirus restrictions on opening their practices but, bar innovative exceptions, a commonsense approach means few audiologists have kept their doors open, reports Audio Infos editor Dennis Kraus.
Germany's specialist hearing care practices may remain open under the law as long as they respect rules on spacing and hygiene, thus following the national viewpoint that communication among people is crucial, especially in such times as these. But the on-the-ground reality has not corresponded to these relaxed measures.
Many shops have maintained only an emergency operation to help customers in urgent need. Users frequently reach hearing centres to find a notice on the door advising them to phone and arrange for someone to open the shop. Plenty of centres have closed altogether. And for obvious reasons: many employees do not want to put their own health at risk, while they also want to protect their clientele, older people being in the maximum risk group.
The general situation in Germany
By April 2, Germany had registered almost 78,000 total confirmed Covid-19 cases, and 931 deaths.
The tone for Germany's response to the coronavirus threat was set back on March 18, when Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke to the nation about the pandemic. Apart from her New Year speeches, this was the first time ever that she had given a TV address on a current issue. And she called the Corona crisis "the biggest challenge for Germany since World War Two," fighting talk that in fact referred back to the reconstruction of the country after the conflagration that saw the end of the Nazi regime.
Since March 23, a contact ban has been in force in Germany, under which no one is allowed to meet with more than one other person in public. Besides food stores, pharmacies, and a few essential others (hearing aid acousticians, for example), most shops have to stay closed, as do cinemas, theatres, and clubs.
The reality facing hearing care professionals with their own practices is that footfall is falling daily. Although the figures are not known, the drop in sales will be clearly noticeable. For this reason, many specialist stores have also put their employees on part-time hours, or are preparing things in advance so that any necessary work can be carried out as quickly as possible.
Necessity breeds invention
Some specialist shops, however, have shown great imagination to deal with the situation. In the Audio Infos newsroom, we have heard of a shop that has set up a kind of drive-in service. Customers drive their car and park outside the the store, but do not get out; the hearing care professional comes to the car. With the window minimally open, the user can buy new batteries, have a tube changed, or have their hearing aids cleaned. If necessary, these hearing care professionals will even bring out their Noahlink Wireless programmer and a laptop to make any adjustments needed.
But the hard times are not only impacting hearing care professionals; manufacturers are affected just as much. Two producers have already postponed the launch of new products due to the uncertainty. Events such as training courses and roadshows have been cancelled, or are now taking place online. In addition, some manufacturers have extended service periods for their customers and are offering extras such as a chat facility to answer questions.
One manufacturer now regularly updates its customers with information and suggestions from its worldwide network. While the industry is clearly doing its utmost to help its customers, most manufacturers have not only sent employees to work from home, but have put many on part-time hours.
EUHA still on schedule
Looking to the autumn, the BVHI (Bundesverband der Hörgeräte-Industrie = German Association of Hearing Aid Manufacturers) and the EUHA (Europäische Union der Hörakustiker = European Union of Hearing Aid Acousticians) are sticking to their plans to hold the 65th International Congress of Hearing Acousticians, the world's biggest audiology conference and trade fair, from October 7 to 9 in Hannover...for now at least!
Source: Audio Infos Germany