“HIT THE SLOPES” - EUHA is crossing frontiers! Interview with EUHA President, Beate Gromke

The 67th International EUHA Congress should see the event back on its pre-pandemic course towards a target of 10,000 visitors. How and why is Swiss audiology joining in this year, and what should you look out for in innovations and networking?

Published on 15 October 2023

“HIT THE SLOPES” – EUHA is crossing frontiers! Interview with EUHA President, Beate Gromke

Audiology Worldnews (AWN): The EUHA Congress begins a process of greater internationalisation this year. How do the organisers want the Congress to be ten years from today?

Beate Gromke (BG): Of course, we still wish to be at the top! (laughs) By then, we will have an even better network, and have taken further steps towards internationalisation. Since we will have a new partner country at our side every year, the countries will become a large community that can identify even more closely with the EUHA Congress than before. In addition, not only will there be a partner country at the Congress, but the European Union of Hearing Aid Acousticians will also enter partnerships at association level during the year.

AWN: AI will be under discussion in at least three of the presentations in the 2023 programme. How do you think AI might affect the Congress itself (and other conferences) in the coming years?

BG: I guess AI parts at the Congress will also increase. From today’s perspective, this could refer to the guidance of visitors who may be supported by an AI-controlled guidance system depending on where they wish to go. Also, in the field of translating our specialist lectures. So far, they have only been translated into German and English. AI might be a way to let visitors participate in the Congress in their native languages.

Individual parts of the lectures may also be created by AI. However, I promise that we will not confront our visitors with avatars but with flesh and blood scientists who will present, and will have developed, their theses themselves.

In any case, I am curious to see what will be new in the field of AI and hearing systems, as the developments of the past few years have been promising.
EUHA/Foto Rechtnitz      Beate Gromke: “Developments in recent years show that other conventions have tended to lose popularity and that the EUHA Congress […] has grown.”

 

AWN: How do you monitor the demands and expectations of conference visitors, and what are your most recent observations and conclusions about what people want from today’s EUHA events?

BG: After last year’s Congress, we had many discussions, started market research, and asked industry members at national and international levels who had never been to the Congress. We found numerous ideas for further developing the event. There is a tendency to favour more opportunities for networking as well as to make the Congress attractive to younger audiences.
EUHA      The Congress was restricted by the Covid pandemic to a cheerless and lonely digital version that looked like this.

 

Innovations in this 2023 Congress

 

We have already redesigned our social media presence, and are planning numerous innovations for this year’s Congress, for example, a stage in Hall 3A. There will be a get-together there on Wednesday between 5 and 6 p.m., and the opening of the Congress will also be held there. This time on Wednesday morning at 9:15 a.m. On the whole, the industry is very well networked, including online. The Congress is the one event for a face-to-face exchange and our aim is to offer more space for this in the future.

 

AWN: One of the EUHA 2023 programme specials is a round-table discussion on the future of hearing aid acoustics, with experts from Switzerland, Belgium, and Germany – including yourself, Beate – discussing the challenges each country expects to face. Please give us a preview of this event, and tell us what challenges you think all countries will share, and whether the profession and market is increasingly moving as one globalised block.

BG: The topic of the round-table talk arose during a visit to Switzerland. In May this year, AKUSTIKA organised SwissHearCon. During one of the conversations, the idea arose to discuss the challenges that each country is facing, and share ideas for one’s own business. The payment models in place in the individual countries will also be discussed. In Germany, health insurances pay for hearing systems. We will shed light on the situation in Belgium or Switzerland. The talk will certainly become exciting when online supplies are discussed, and experience is shared.
PW      Stands at the EUHA Exhibition are animated by cool displays, screens, and often ingenious product promotions. Habitually, separate conversations are taking place in multiple points of a stand.

 

AWN: For English-language channels such as Audiology News UK and Audiology Worldnews, the appeal of EUHA to the USA and UK is very important. How important to EUHA is a strong presence from the UK and US, and are there any special efforts made to foment this presence?

BG: Delegates from the UK and the US are more than welcome at the EUHA Congress. In addition to numerous European lectures, we have a total of six lectures from the US. We would also be happy to receive suggestions for lectures from the UK in the future, unfortunately not this year – we will be doing more advertising for 2024, and building partnerships in a targeted manner.

On the one hand, it is relevant for us to include speakers from English-speaking countries, on the other, we wish to present thematic content from abroad. The latest findings and experiences with AI as well as developments, for instance, in the field of OTC devices are exciting. This is vital to better assess the situation.

 

AWN: Can we talk about real numbers? Do EUHA organisers have a specific target number for visitors this year, next year, and year after?

BG: This year, our goal is to return to pre-pandemic levels. And, of course, we wish to improve from year to year. Our goal still is to reach 10,000 visitors.
PW      The EUHA exhibition is the biggest space anywhere for interaction with the audiology industry.

AWN:In terms of visitor numbers, the EUHA Congress is the biggest audiology event in the world, rivalled only by the AAA event in the USA. Is it possible that an event in another country might spring up and rival EUHA’s popularity?

BG: Of course, I don’t have a crystal ball. Developments in recent years show, however, that other conventions have tended to lose popularity and that the EUHA Congress – measured in terms of the number of participants, the exhibition space, and the number of exhibitors – has grown.

 

EUHA in red and white

 

AWN: As always, the Congress will be a great networking opportunity for professionals and businesses. What kind of social stimulants is EUHA planning for its days and evenings in 2023?

BG: First, there will be many opportunities for networking at the Congress! Right behind the entrance to the NCC Ost, in the foyer, we will provide an opportunity to exchange ideas with representatives from our partner country. Most Swiss speak several languages, for instance German, English, French, and Swiss German, of course.

The motto of the Congress Get-together on Thursday evening is “Hit the slopes in red & white! The big EUHA après-ski party at the Resi!”. This motto was chosen with Switzerland, our partner country, in mind and all guests are invited to dress in red and white. We are excited to see which mottos will be used when the United Kingdom or the United States become partner countries!

The EUHA app will be updated from around mid-September. Users will have the opportunity to network via the app, create their own profiles, chat with others, and quickly find all relevant contacts using matchmaking. Content can be shared via the EUHA app, for instance, photos that are saved in the gallery can be posted directly on social media.

Social media is a good keyword! This is also a platform for networking. We now also have German-speaking communities on audio therapy and teleservice in hearing aid acoustics.

As already mentioned, we will meet on Wednesday, at 5 p.m., on the stage in Hall 3A for a get-together. I’m very much looking forward to it!

 

INTERNATIONALISING EUHA

 

Tobias Bartels has been settling into his post as Managing Director of the EUHA Congress since November 2022. He explained to Audiology Worldnews about his mission to increase the international flavour, attraction, and presence at the event.

“There will be a partner country this year for the first time, with the aim of promoting international exchange. This will happen on a technical level, for instance at our roundtable discussion, and by including several speakers from Switzerland. It will also happen on a personal level: there will be an intensive exchange with Switzerland at the Congress Get-together. At the same time, we are introducing innovations so that attending the Congress will be even more effective for the participants. This year, for instance, the opening of the Congress will be held at 0900,” outlined Bartels.

“Choosing Switzerland as our first partner country for the Congress was easy, as the European Union of Hearing Aid Acousticians launched a cooperation with AKUSTIKA, the Swiss professional association, at the beginning of May 2023. So, it was quite obvious to use these synergies for the Congress as well. Other partner countries will follow – we are already looking forward to choosing them! I’m sure that this will give our Congresses a very special flair and we can all broaden our horizons,” continued the new MD.

“Due to the pandemic, there were fewer visitors from Asia at last year’s Congress. We assume, and hope, to be able to welcome more visitors from this region this year,” he adds.
PW       A more international EUHA is now a long-term mission. Visitors from Asia, lost since 2019, are expected to return.

For the full interview with Tobias Bartels click here.

Source: Audiology Worldnews EUHA Congress Special magazine

P.W.