EUHA 2015: Know-how and skills can no longer be limited to the national level

The 60th International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians will start on 14 October in Nuremberg (Germany). Audiology Worldnews spoke to EUHA president Martin Blecker about the top event of the European hearing industry.

What is the main task of the EUHA? Who are its members and how is it financed?

We see ourselves as the link between science, manufacturers, hearing aid acousticians and those who are engaged in the qualified provision of hearing systems to the hearing impaired. We provide a network for hearing aid acousticians, scientists and laypeople. And we organize advanced vocational training and further qualification at all levels, to provide the best possible services to people with hearing loss.

Our members primarily come from medium-sized hearing aid providers that are often run by owners, with many of them having a family tradition. Some of these company members are already the third generation. Our financial resources come from membership subscriptions and admission fees for the exhibition and various seminars and workshops.

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 the national level. Our predecessors understood that many years ago, and therefore created a platform that is a combination of advanced vocational training and an industry trade fair, 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 the 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 find new inspiration, 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 whether this happens at the conference or the trade fair.

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 (Audiology NOW!), and maintain good working relationships with the A.E.A. and the “Bureau International d’Audiophonologie” (BIAP).

Conference languages at the EUHA are German and English. What do you do if a presenter doesn’t speak German or English?

Professional interpreters will provide simultaneous translation of all the lectures and panel discussions into German or English.

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

Well, once you reach a goal, it’s still important to keep developing. At the EUHA, we prefer to continue to develop. We are pleased to hear that a third of all visitors are foreigners. The demand is high and we always endeavour to adjust our offer to it. For example, with six different workshops, we adapt to the requests of the participants for more practical issues. And, of course, we are pleased to report rising numbers of attendees.

There is a tendency towards cost-cutting at the AudiologyNOW! congress. 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 at the best possible level, including topical advanced vocational training, a 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 people and as such we can reach them not only by the senses but also by emotions.

The Congress as a whole, including the industry exhibition, is certainly very expensive. How is all this financed?

An important part of the financial resources comes from the co-organizer of the Congress, the German Hearing Aid Industry Association (BVHI), and the other portion comes from admission fees.

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

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

Like 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, there will be a guest appearance by Boney M. featuring Liz Mitchell at the Congress Gettogether. In the 70s and 80s, Boney M. gained international recognition. As soon as the music starts, delegates from Germany and abroad will be dancing to the Jamaican singer’s rhythm, reminiscing about the past. As the evening is themed “Disco style of the 1980s”, guests are cordially invited to put on their 80s disco outfits.

What are the main Congress topics this year?

The subjects are: hearing aid development, rehabilitation of hearing losses, psychoacoustics, and a whole lot more. Particularly, I am looking forward to hearing our keynote speaker, Prof. Dr. Jürgen Kießling, who will be giving a review of the past 60 congresses, outlining the development, and catching a glimpse of future trends.

Will there be anything special this year?

Of course. It is our sixtieth Congress! 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 any hassle. After the Congress, video recordings of all the lectures held in Nuremberg will be available on DVD in the original language versions, and may be ordered from the EUHA website. Moreover, the EUHA members will elect a new Executive Committee.

Read this article and much more on the Audiology Worldnews EUHA special distributed during the congress.

Rainer Hüls