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Larry Page’s Voice Update

Larry Page’s Voice Update

    In July I blogged about Google founder Larry Page’s reported voice problem. I speculated that Page might have the same voice issue I had, called spasmodic dysphonia.

    My reasoning was that spasmodic dysphonia is often – perhaps even usually – incorrectly diagnosed as a psychological problem. That was the only reason I could imagine for Google’s silence on the specifics of his voice issues. If Page had any other kind of voice problem the company would have simply described it.

    Today I did a Google search to see if there was an update. Page recently appeared in public and spoke in a way that will strike most listeners as unusual. His voice is breathy, weak, and quite different from his old voice that you can hear on this clip. The good news is that his voice is functional.

    Page’s new voice is identical to the sound of a patient with spasmodic dysphonia after getting Botox injections to the vocal cords to control involuntary spasms. I recognize the distinctive sound because I had that sort of treatment for about six months. I sounded exactly the same. And I can rule out the possibility that Page had throat surgery for spasmodic dysphonia because that would have left an obvious scar on the front of his neck.

    Botox injections through the front of the neck to the vocal cords are the most common treatment for Spasmodic Dysphonia. The problem – and it’s a huge one – is that the Botox is always ramping up or wearing off. Your voice is only good for a brief window in which the dose is at the just-right phase. Every few months you have to go in for a new shot, which is extraordinarily unpleasant if needles creep you out. It’s an extra-thick needle that pushes through the front of the throat and – if the doctor is either skilled or lucky – finds the vocal cords one-at-a-time. In my case, I got a different result after every injection; sometimes it worked well, sometimes not. I later learned that one of my vocal cords is in an unusual position, which probably explains why my results were spotty.

    I tried the Botox injections for several months before realizing it wasn’t for me. I’ve heard it works well for some people. In the end, my solution was surgery with a doctor who invented the approach he used.

    Obviously I’m only speculating about Page’s voice condition. But I’ll renew my offer to explain the surgery option to Larry if it turns out he has spasmodic dysphonia and is interested in alternatives. I can be reached at dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com.

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