Events | January 2020 Hearing Review

The “world’s largest convention of hearing care professionals,” the European Union of Hearing Acousticians (EUHA) 64th International Congress was held on October 16-18 in Nuremberg, Germany, with an emphasis on artificial intelligence, digitization, and innovative sensor technology. The conference of about 8,000 attendees included more than 20 expert lectures and 6 tutorials, presented by internationally renowned speakers, as well as an expansive and busy convention expo. Toward the end of the Congress, HR Editorial Board Member Sugata Bhattacharjee, AuD (pictured right), sat down with EUHA’s President Beate Gromke and Executive Committee Member Tom Aerts to learn more about the conference or organization.

HR: What’s new at EUHA this year? 

Aerts: Certainly, we have lectures about the newest innovations in hearing technology. There are over 150 exhibitors featuring their products to help hearing professional in a market experiencing exceptional growth. We are also making the lectures more exciting, and invited a futurist to speak on Friday. We also made sure that the expo floor is very interactive. AI (artificial intelligence) is the next big thing and we are preparing and educating our members about it.

HR: How long have you been working in this field before becoming president of EUHA? 

Gromke: It’s been 30 years that I have been involved in the hearing field. It has been an exciting and productive journey. I have seen hearing aids progress from trim-pot analog devices to computerized digital aids.

HR: With all the regulatory changes happening in the United States and the upcoming class of over-the-counter hearing aids, are you concerned about what affect they may have on the European market?

Aerts: We don’t have anything against it. If it comes, we must embrace it and move forward. We have to prepare our EUHA members for things like that. If you listen to the futurists, we gather that in every industry there are outsiders, and at times insiders, who become the ‘disrupters.’ The best way to tackle disruption is to adapt and embrace it—see it as an opportunity not a threat. A primary emphasis we’ve stressed at EUHA is for our members to use verification, and we have set guidelines for verification. We believe that verification and validation is key.

Gromke: One thing that we understand is that if the manufacturers can get ready for a huge market like the United States, they will also be able to implement something similar for the European market. We don’t know how or when it will cross the ocean, but it will definitely have an impact. At this moment, we don’t see any regulation passing in any country of Europe about OTC hearing aids, but you never know. Events and elections can always prompt changes. For example, French President Emmanuel Macron promised cheaper hearing aids during his campaign, and post-election, regulated lower-priced hearing aids.

HR: Does the EUHA work alongside of other organizations?

Gromke: We try work alongside of all the European hearing associations, as well the American organizations, ranging from AAA to IHS.

HR: Why do you think there is a decline in the number of attendees at some of the conventions worldwide, while there is an increase in number of attendees at EUHA?

Gromke: I feel that the focus of some conventions is a little bit more towards students, while EUHA focuses on the people working in the field. We also focus a lot on the Expo and are conscious about the investment that exhibitors make, both in time and capital. We need to have both: the Congress must have top-notch presentations and seminars, and it also needs a vibrant Expo floor so attendees can see and interact with the latest technologies and services. 

At EUHA, we also advocate for our associations. We put a lot of effort into this, and it’s not easy. EUHA focuses on the independence of small businesses—and we represent employers who have 1 shop, 2 shops, or 20 shops. It is very business focused. Every year the goal of the EUHA convention committee is to make it bigger and better, so we are constantly working to increase attendance. Our goal is to reach 10,000 attendees. However, we want to grow and still maintain our quality and standards; we want people to come here for business but also to improve our overall industry and our value to our clients.

HR: When you finish your tenure as the president of EUHA, what is it that you would like to achieve?

Gromke: I think the Future Friday concept would be the silver lining of my presidency. Increasingly, attendees are returning to the Expo on Friday [the last day of the 3-day Congress]. So if we can make the attendance on Friday high—and if we can make Friday a “must-attend” type of day—then I think I have done my job.

HR: Finally, do you plan to host EUHA in any larger cities, and would you ever plan to host EUHA outside Germany?

Aerts: For now, we will continue to hold EUHA at Nuremberg and Hannover. Although we get roughly the same attendance numbers in both cities, we do get different representation from each venue. Even though it is a European expo, there is no current plan to host it outside Germany.