Stefan Zimmer, BVHI: “Our members cherish the relationship with acousticians”

EUHA 2016

Dr. Stefan Zimmer at the 2015 EUHA congress

The 61st EUHA congress has started this morning in Hanover. A few weeks ago, we have met Dr. Stefan Zimmer, chairman of the German hearing aid industry association (BVHI) since February 2015 to talk about the association and the relationship between manufacturers and acousticians.

BVHI represents 13 hearing instruments manufacturers that are active in the German market. It supports the interests of its members and is the communications body for all issues around hearing technology, hearing impairments, and innovations in the field of audiology.

In this context, the association aims to improve the use of hearing systems by people who do not hear well, to inform the public about the performance of modern hearing systems, and to reduce the inhibition threshold against hearing aid use. Moreover, the association works towards effective cooperation with other professional groups in this fields like hearing aid acousticians, ENT physicians, health insurance companies, other vocational associations, interest groups, and politicians. The range of tasks also includes the support of education for young acousticians.

Dr. Zimmer, 2014 was an exceptionally successful year for the German hearing aid industry. How did the industry fare in 2015?

Sales figures of the previous year - as well as those of the current year - confirm our expectation that hearing aids are increasingly becoming a part of our everyday life. I think, we finally can bury the myth of “stigmatization”. Acousticians, public health care and hearing aid manufacturers significantly intensified their awareness campaigns like the “Better Hearing Week”, “the “Anti-Noise Day” and the “World Hearing Day”, and in this way they heightened people’s knowledge about the importance of hearing aids for their health and quality of life.

How is the manufacturer organization BVHI fostering this development?

This year, we have brought the “World Hearing Day” the first time to Germany in cooperation with the World Health Organization WHO. The acousticans hailed this event, which is evident by the growing number of members and their participation. Together with the WHO we managed to place the subject “Better Hearing” – especially the prevention of hearing impairments - in the public. All together, we have reached more than 14 million people via online- and printed media, and another 8 million people via public broadcast. We are looking forward to continue our commitment with (and for) the acousticians in the forthcoming year 2017.

How would you describe the relationship between hearing aid acousticians and hearing aid manufacturers, in Germany?

Our association represents the producers of hearing aids, whose customers are the acousticians. Our members cherish this relationship and take it very seriously. The producer-customer-relationship has evolved significantly during the last years. In 2016, our annual customer satisfaction survey, based on almost 1.000 individual ratings, showed the highest level of overall customer satisfaction since we started this survey six years ago. The overall satisfaction of acousticians with the products of the hearing aid industry also peaked again, in 2016. But not only are acousticians highly satisfied with the current products and services of our members – looking into the future the acousticians still see the highest potential for market growth in industry-innovations. This shows a deep trust in the innovative power of the hearing aid industry, a trust our members have earned through hard work and will surely not disappoint in years to come.

Is there still - with view to different marketing strategies - some kind of solidarity amongst the members of the manufacturer association?

In the current year our members have continued consequently their strategies of 2015. Indeed, there are differences in their marketing strategies. This is normal in an open market with strong competition, and it is good for the market as a whole. The manufacturers do not act as a monolithic block, which would not be approved by the acousticians anyway. Essential for our association is that - regardless of their individual marketing - actually all members share unrestrictedly paramount aims: More transparency, better informed and optimal fitted humans. This we are sharing with the associations of our customers, the hearing aid acousticians.

What importance does the industry place on the EUHA Congress and the trade fair?

I can only reiterate what I already answered last year: The congress and the exhibition are invaluable opportunities for the industry to enter the dialogue with its customers. For many years, the Congress and the exhibition have been a tried and tested platform where not only technological innovations are presented and scientific know-how is shared, but where the exchange of ideas and fruitful cooperation are cultivated. Through all the years, the German Hearing Aid Industry Association has been EUHA’s partner closely cooperating in organizing these events. This partnership also leaves an imprint on the open-minded culture of dialogue between hearing aid manufacturers and acousticians.

So the importance of the exhibition lies not only in showcasing technological innovations?

Certainly the products will take center stage at the trade exhibition: once again, we are able to showcase smaller and larger quantum leaps in technology – hearing systems with even more user comfort, new types of connectivity, even higher auditory, visual, and haptic appeal. But that is only one side of the medal. Innovative technology relies on well-trained craftsmanship to fulfil the manufacturers and acousticians’ joint promise to people with impaired hearing: to provide more quality of life thanks to innovative hearing technology.

Photo: D.K.

Rainer Hüls, Audio Infos Germany for AWN