Lost in Sound is Attracting Attention
Kimberly becomes a HearStrong Champion
BY: Michael C. Moore
POSTED: 12:34 PM, Jan 22, 2015
The Poulsbo resident (she and her husband, Joe, moved there 16 years ago and have raised two sons there) grew up with a genetic condition that caused her to lose her hearing, so gradually and insidiously that, for much of the first four decades of her life, she didn’t even realize it was happening.
“By the time I turned 40, I was deaf,” Parker wrote.
Thanks to Cochlear implant surgery, Parker can “hear” again. And she’s telling the story — what happened to her and how she eventually learned what it was and how to deal with it — in “Lost in Sound: A One Woman Play.” She’s performing the collection of narrative, monologues, vignettes and original music, which she conceived as a graduate student at Gallaudet University in 2011, at 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 at Town Hall Seattle, and has hopes for many other performances in the future. First aired as a staged reading (of the first draft) at the Jewel Box Theatre in December 2013, it has been performed as a finished product only a few times, to enthusiastic response.
Her goal, she wrote on the website dedicated to “Lost in Sound,” is to “raise awareness of the silent epidemic that is hearing loss.”
Kitsap A&E: What was the process for cobbling together what you refer to as the “narrative, monologues, vignettes and musical solos” in the play?
Kimberly Parker: The process unfolded as I remembered different events, thoughts/feelings/ outcomes and put them on paper. The hard part was getting started and revisiting old memories. Once I made the decision to trust the process and detach from the outcome, my commitment and determination to finish was born.
A&E: How did you decide to tell your story in this form?
KP: The decision to use a mixture of narrative, monologues, vignettes and original musical solos was twofold. Not only did I want it to be interesting and engaging for my audience, I also wanted it to be fun and challenging for me to perform.
A&E: Did you have theater background, or did you just think it would be the most efficient way to get the story across?
KP: I grew up in the theater and I hold a BA in Theatre Arts, from Boise State University.
A&E: Do you have a story in the play about the first time you started to realize there might be something wrong? Was it something specific, like difficulty at school, or more of a general realization?
KP: There are a few stories in the play that indicate that I had a hearing loss. However, since it’s all I have ever known, I did not know what was wrong with me; I just thought that I was stupid. I was first diagnosed with a moderate to severe hearing loss when I was 8. Family denial and other factors kept me from getting the help I needed, and it was soon forgotten.
A&E: What was the first action you took?
KP: I was a junior in college when a professor told me he thought I had a hearing loss and encouraged me to get a hearing test. I was diagnosed with a severe to profound bilateral hearing loss when I was 22. It took me eight years to treat my hearing loss, a highly common occurrence because of denial. I was 30 when I started wearing hearing aids.
A&E: What was your life like during the period before you had your Cochlear implants?
KP: I always did the best I could with the limited hearing I had and I had my ups and downs in life, like everyone. The hardest part was going deaf. Hearing aides were not helping any more. My speech comprehension was 12 percent. Those were my darkest days and it lasted about five years.
A&E: Did you work, have a trade?
KP: My main job was being a stay-at-home mom, which I loved. I did work a few hours a week. I taught classes in theater improvisation, storytelling and puppetry for Parks and Recreation and the North Kitsap PAL program from 2004-2013, until funding for PAL was cut. At that time I set a goal to write, produce and perform a one-woman play, which I accomplished within 90 days. That was the beginning of “Lost in Sound: A One Woman Play.”
A&E: How long have you been married?
KP: Twenty-four years. We met in 1984 at a summer job, driving ice cream trucks. He is my biggest fan and the love of my life.
A&E: Could you describe “electronic hearing?”
KP: I imagine it’s a bit different for everyone, so I can only speak to my own experience. Electronic hearing has given me the ability to hear the high frequencies of speech (which are consonants) so that I can now understand complete words and sentences. At first voices sounded like Mickey Mouse. However, once my brain got used to hearing new sounds, I no longer noticed it and a kind of normalcy set in. I am now able to hear birds (which I love) and insects and the ticking of a clock as well as other high frequency sounds.
A&E: You do podcasts with your husband. What other ways besides that and the play are you getting your story out?
KP: My goal this year is to write a book which I hope will lead to speaking engagements at conferences and universities.
A&E: What are your hopes for the play?
KP: I intend to tour the country with my play for the next two years to raise awareness for the silent epidemic that is hearing loss. Since one in five Americans have hearing loss, chances are you know someone who does. We are all affected by it directly or indirectly. I hope people will be inspired to learn more about hearing loss and how to help themselves and others and to support inclusion. I want to see positive social changes that will make life better for everyone.
A&E: Are there plans for a performance in Kitsap?
KP: I would love a local theater to produce this play — anyone interested? So far, I have produced every show myself and it is a lot of work. I do hope to perform in Kitsap this year; I just need to find the right venue. I am committed to performing in venues that have accessibility for the hard of hearing, and they are few and far between. The reason I chose Town Hall Seattle is because they are the first arts and entertainment venue in the city of Seattle to install a Hearing Induction Loop for the hard of hearing (in August 2014).
A&E: It’s gratifying enough to get an audience’s response to a live performance, but it must be especially so in your case, since your story is a personal one and your aim is to raise awareness of the subject matter …
KP: There is no question that I am passionate about shedding light on this invisible condition and that is exactly what motivated me to write the play. The greatest joy and excitement for me is that people are telling me that it has changed their perspective and empowered them to take positive action in their lives. People feel informed, inspired and moved by something that really matters. Which means I am connecting to my audience on a deep level and making a difference, what could be better than that? The fact that I get to write and act and sing and do what I love to do, and help people at the same time, is truly a dream come true, and for that I am grateful.