The 16th European Symposium on Pediatric Cochlear Implantation – ESPCI was held on 31st May – 3rd June, at the De Doelen convention centre in the beautiful Dutch city of Rotterdam.

Over 1,400 people attended, of whom most were CI professionals, including scientists, audiologists, speech therapists and surgeons. Amongst them, I counted around fifteen CI users – approximately 1% of the attendees.

The Symposium opened with an absolutely stunning musical performance by four very talented performers called Percossa. They entered the stage dressed as old men, stomping out a rhythm with Zimmer frames and walking sticks. Words cannot do it justice, but you can find them on YouTube!

This was followed by a very entertaining presentation from Frances Gallimore, a Dutch CI user, who shared excerpts from her novel about dating with CI “Zolang ik nog vrijgezel ben” (As long as I’m still single).

The themes of presentations was very varied.  Many were extremely scientific and hard to understand, while others were accessible to the layman. On the CI user side, we heard a lot about remote care, digitalisation of care, and the importance of CI registries. On the product side, we heard exciting information about future technologies, for example about potentially using graphene in future electrodes or opto-genetic stimulation.

In “Growing up with CI”, five young adults with CI were interviewed on the main stage by Rob Beenders, himself a CI user, about their experiences. It was really moving to hear their rich and diverse life experiences as well as heart-warming to observe their self-confidence.

I was delighted to learn that the official photographer, Jessica van der Mast, is also a CI user. Her huge posters of “Super HEARoes” young people with CI were proudly and prominently displayed upon the promenade outside Rotterdam station, gaining great visibility for CI.

Hosted by Rob Beenders, an incredible panel discussion featuring 5 inspiring young cochlear implant advocates. From their childhood experiences with CI to living with it, education, rehabilitation and services, they shared powerful insights! (Photo credit CIICA)

There were few opportunities to ask questions, but this was the first conference where I have seen the “Catch box” in use. Rather than have someone passing a mic from person to person, people could just throw it to one another. I thought this was really cool and could be really useful in educational settings.

A few presentations really resonated with me, with quotes that have stuck in my mind. For example, “Standard speech-in-noise tests overestimate the performance of CI in the real world.” is well worth remembering. We need to move testing from the confines of the hospital, out into the noisy everyday world. Meanwhile “Welcome to school! Social inclusion of young CI users in their daily environments” clearly demonstrated that young CI users are not as included at school as their parents and teachers think they are. Sadly, we still have a very long way to go.

EURO-CIU (European Association of Cochlear Implant Users, n. red.) and CIICA (Cochlear Implant International Community of Action, n. red.) were the only non-governmental organisations to have stands at the event. (…)

The brands had the biggest stands, and Cochlear kindly permitted EURO-CIU to make a video interview with Lou Ferrigno (a.k.a. The Incredible Hulk) who has a cochlear implant. There were several smaller stands, featuring medical equipment such as microscopes and robots. I tried my hand at using a ROBOTOL to insert an electrode into a model cochlea. It was incredibly difficult, but great to gain better insight into the amazing work that our surgeons do.

On Friday evening a sold-out network event was held in the beautifully illuminated Laurenskerk.

The next ESPCI Symposia will be in Hannover, Germany 2025, then in Croatia in 2027.

Robert Mandara (Vice-President, EURO-CIU). Republished from the EURO-CIU newsletter.


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