EUHA President Beate Gromke talks about September's 65th International Congress of Hearing Aid Acousticians, and the much anticipated return to face-to-face events.
- Published on 09 July 2021
In any normal year, the EUHA congress would aspire to host close to 9,000 visitors. In 2021, its organisers have responded to calls to return from a digital to an in-person event. In this AWN exclusive interview, EUHA President Beate Gromke explains how expectations are being managed ahead of the September 15-17 event.
AWN: September 15 to 17, 2021; Deutsche Messe Hanover, Germany. Both the date and the venue are set, and the longing in the industry for a return to face-to-face gatherings has been made palpable to the congress organisers. How do you balance the determination to make it happen and the responsibilities to meet pandemic requirements?
Beate Gromke (BG): We are responding to the industry’s request for a face-to-face event, and are going to plan and execute it with regard to current pandemic conditions. Together with the German Hearing Instruments Industry Association (BVHI) and Deutsche Messe Hannover, we have developed a concept that ensures the safety of those taking part in the 65th International EUHA Congress. We will be keeping an eye on the Covid-19 incidence rate, and will adhere to the guidelines of the state of Lower Saxony and the Robert Koch Institute. The state of Lower Saxony has given the go-ahead for the Congress.
AWN: What specific protective measures are being considered by EUHA organisers for participants and visitors?
Beate Gromke (BG): The trade fair and Congress will be a safe place: we oblige the rule that access will only be granted to fully vaccinated (i.e. with full vaccine protection from a vaccine approved and authorised in the EU) or convalescent individuals, or people with a valid negative Covid-19 test. Digital proof must be provided (QR code). In addition, a spacious entrance area and extra-wide hall corridors will ensure that crowds are avoided. Face masks are mandatory for the time being. No further restrictions are to be expected when adhering to this strategy.
AWN: Are exhibitors fully fired up for the person-to-person event?
BG: Ninety-five percent of the usual exhibitors have already agreed to participate in the trade fair, and are looking forward to the first meeting after twenty-three months of compulsory break. Almost a hundred exhibitors will be presenting their innovations.
AWN: Is September, a late summer/early autumn month, a worrying event date during a virus crisis that may be subject to some seasonal factors?
BG: A large proportion of the population has already been vaccinated and the number of Covid-19 cases is decreasing. We are implementing an appropriate protection and hygiene concept. This is why I am positive concerning our September event date. More people will have been vaccinated by late summer.
AWN: What agencies or experts from outside audiology have been involved in helping organisers manage the pandemic aspects affecting the gathering?
BG: Together with Deutsche Messe Hannover, we have followed the guidelines issued by the state of Lower Saxony and by the Robert Koch Institute. These are the guiding bodies for us. As mentioned, the state of Lower Saxony has given the go-ahead for the Congress.
AWN: Can you reveal some of the scientific highlights already firmed up for this event?
BG: The latest findings from the areas of speech intelligibility will be presented, with a special focus on contrasts. Of course, the pandemic and its effects will also be reflected in the lecture programme. Delegates can look forward to innovations in hearing system technology, hearing system adjustment, and much more! It’s worth taking a look at our programme!
Apart from the topics offered, our highlights will also be visible in the structure of the event. The industrial exhibition will present the latest in technology and hearing system technology. For the first time, there will be an online exhibitor directory, and Future Friday - with its very special programme - is scheduled to be held on Friday.
AWN: In recent years, the EUHA Congress has grown to become the world’s biggest audiology event, and visitor figures have reached towards nine thousand. Do the circumstances mean expectations of visitor numbers must be lower this year? And by how much, would you estimate?
BG: We look forward to every single delegate. This year, our focus is not so much on the numbers, but on the fact that we can meet again in person. Since the ticket shop will go online in July, we are currently unable to give any figures, or make any forecasts. However, currently (mid-June) almost a hundred exhibitors from Germany and abroad have registered to present their innovations. Nobody should miss out on this.
AWN: EUHA is an international event. Given the possibility of widescale travel restrictions, what are the expectations on that international flavour being diluted this year?
BG: Travel restrictions are gradually being lifted. We have numerous speakers and exhibitors from abroad, I am sure that there will be an international exchange.
Yet, I believe that the Congress will be different. An event such as ours cannot be implemented under pandemic conditions exactly as before. I am sure that the Congress will have a very special flair. Its attraction also lies in personal encounters. It will be a treasure for all of us to appreciate. That makes the Congress something special.
AWN: Finally, after your election as President of the EUHA in 2018, you oversaw a 2019 Congress that in probably all ways was the successful, vibrant face-to-face gathering we would like to be able to celebrate again. What contrasts can we expect between 2019 and 2021? And without Covid in the way, how would 2021 have been different to 2019 in content and feel?
BG: A convention under pandemic conditions is always different. The important pillars of our Congress are the scientific lecture programme and the industrial exhibition – and, of course, its delegates!
Some familiar elements, such as the EUHA Lounge for our members, will not be available this year. The EUHA Sponsorship Award, which we have presented for eleven years in a row, has been suspended this year. This is due to the fact that the Congress will be held at an earlier date in the year. Some graduates do not receive their examination results until the middle or end of August. This means that the time for evaluating and selecting the papers submitted would be too short for the jury. We are already collecting proposals for 2022!
For the 65th International EUHA Congress, our main focus will be on meeting again in person. In terms of content, we will offer a qualified programme of lectures with top-class speakers from Germany and abroad, exciting tutorials, and on Friday, Future Friday will be looking to the future!