From Fargo to Largo

Meningitis patient travels 1,800 miles for innovative procedure to correct hearing loss and tinnitus challenge

Dr. Anastasia Knoblach and Kristie Myers

On March 21, 2008, Kristie Myers stayed home from her job in the financial aid department at North Dakota State University in Fargo. Something was wrong, very wrong. She just knew it. A headache – unlike any she had ever experienced – told her so. 

“I called my aunt and said, I don’t think I can drive to the emergency room. Could you come and get me?” Kristie recalls of that Friday morning. “She took me to the emergency room, where they ran a bunch of tests. 

“The doctor said, It’s probably just a terrible flu or other virus. The only other thing it’s consistent with is meningitis, but that’s extremely unusual and rare. 

He then told me that to make a definitive diagnosis of meningitis, he would have to do a lumbar puncture. I was told I could do the lumbar puncture or I could go home, and if I wasn’t better in 24 hours, I could come back. 

Meningitis is inflammation of the meninges, protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. A lumbar puncture, also known as a spinal tap, is a procedure during which a needle is inserted into the spinal canal to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. 

Initially, Kristie decided to return home and rest. But as she waited to be discharged, something inside her told her to stay for the lumbar puncture, so she did. That test was positive for meningitis. 

“They have to grow a culture from the CSF, so they don’t know for 24 to 48 hours whether you have bacterial meningitis or the viral or aseptic kind,” Kristie describes. “Meantime, standard protocol is to treat you with four powerful antibiotics; otherwise, you’re not likely to live.” 

Despite the treatment, Kristie suffered respiratory failure. She was placed on a ventilator and fell into a coma for 10 days. When she awoke, she struggled to regain control of her muscles. She also noticed an issue with her hearing. 

“One of the antibiotics they gave me was vancomycin, which is known to cause hearing loss,” Kristie relates. “That’s exactly what happened. I lost most of the hearing in my left ear. 

“The doctor also told me that nothing could be done for my hearing loss because it’s permanent and too significant. He said there was no surgery or anything else that could be done to help me.”

Kristie’s hearing impairment disrupted her everyday life. Eventually, though, she discovered some simple hacks for hearing better in certain situations. 

“I always sat at the end of the table so everybody was to my right; otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to hear them,” she says. “As a passenger in a car, I had to face whoever was speaking and basically try to half read their lips or I couldn’t understand what they were saying.”


As Kristie adjusted to the circumstances associated with her hearing loss, another troubling hearing issue developed.

“I started hearing ringing in my damaged ear,” Kristie relates. “I couldn’t hear anything else out of my left ear, but I could hear constant static and ringing, and it was very distracting.”

Also known as tinnitus, ringing in the ears is a perception of sound when there’s no external source. It can manifest in a number of ways, including hissing, whistling, roaring, pulsing, screeching, buzzing or the static noise that plagued Kristie.

Tinnitus is not a disease but rather a symptom of  underlying condition. While the cause is typically an acoustic trauma to the auditory nerve, genetics and medications can also be the culprit. 

Tinnitus cannot be cured, but as Kristie learned three years ago from Anastasia Knoblach, AuD, it can be treated.

“I met Anastasia online in a group chat,” Kristie explains. “As we got to know each other better, she told me she was an audiologist in Florida and that she also had tinnitus. She later told me that her ex-husband is a hearing instrument specialist who made an adjustment to her hearing aids that alleviated her tinnitus. When I told her that I had tinnitus, too, she suggested I contact Dean and ask if he would look at my situation.” 

Dean Knoblach, BC-HIS, the founder of Knoblach Hearing Care in Largo, was delighted to take on the challenge Kristie presented. 

“So, I traveled from Fargo to Florida to see him at the beginning of March,” Kristie says.

According to Dean, Kristie has a severe unilateral  sensorineural hearing loss in her left ear. The loss  likely developed as a side effect of the vancomysin, which was administered to save Kristie’s life, but it can also cause profound hearing loss.

“The challenge was matching Kristie’s left ear with her very normal hearing right ear,” Dean explains. “If they don’t match, it’s like wearing two different shoes at the same time, it would never feel quite right. We booked an entire afternoon to test fit, and adjust the powerful amounts of amplification necessary to balance Kristie’s left ear with her right. When we finally got them to sound balanced and comfortable, the ringing was almost gone, making the masking part of the equation quite easy.

Tinnitus masking is a feature available in some hearing devices. For Kristie, Dean created a customized masking sound that softly covers up the static in her left ear. 

“A lot of the technology I used in treating Kristie was not available 15 years ago,” Dean notes. “But every day is a new day, and new technologies are emerging rapidly. That’s why people with hearing loss and tinnitus should never give up hope.”

“It’s Life-Changing”

Kristie flew from Fargo to Florida after Dr. Knoblach, suggested she could find answers for her hearing issues at Knoblach Hearing Care.

Knoblach Hearing Care participates in multiple clinical trials of new hearing devices and software.  As a result, Dean always has access to the most up-to-date technology in hearing care. Kristie traveled more than 1,800 miles in the hope of finding a solution for her tinnitus. 

“The results were better than expected because I didn’t think Dean would be able to enhance my hearing as well,” Kristie says. “I was only expecting him to get rid of the ringing in my ear. He was able to do both.”

After 15 years of hearing nothing out of her left ear, Kristie says she became quite emotional when Dean first fit her with the device.

“The first voice I heard through my left ear was Dean’s,” she relates. “And the really exciting part was when he had me answer the phone, and I could hear it clearly.

“I haven’t been able to use a telephone with my left ear in 15 years. It’s always been my right ear or speakerphone. Now, I’m able to hear things in the environment and other people talking.

“And I don’t have that constant, annoying ringing and static in my ear. What Anastasia, Dean and Knoblach Hearing Care have done for me has been life-changing.”

Kristie gives the credit for her success to the board-certified hearing instrument specialist who found a way to mask her tinnitus and restore her hearing.

“Dean is great,” she enthuses. “He’s very knowledgeable and very personable. He kept me informed, explained the process the entire way and wouldn’t quit until both ears sounded balanced again.”

Florida Health Care News 


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    • Knoblach Hearing Care

      At Knoblach Hearing Care their doors remain open to anyone seeking compassionate hearing care. They work each day to empower our patients to achieve their maximum hearing potential. Whether it's the laughter of children down the hall, unders... Read More

    • Dean M. Knoblach, BC-HIS

      Dean M. Knoblach, BC-HIS, has been a board-certified hearing instrument specialist since 1990 and a past national training director for HEARx, now HearUSA. He later stepped back from training specialists and doctors to become the founder of Kno... Read More

    • Anastasia L. Knoblach, AuD

      Anastasia L. Knoblach, AuD, completed her undergraduate education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She earned her Doctor of Audiology degree from Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine in Missouri. She has worked at several ho... Read More