I saw some speculation in the news that Google's Larry Page might have the same "voice problem" that I had, called spasmodic dysphonia. I will add to that speculation because it fits what little we know about his situation. I'm not saying he has spasmodic dysphonia, but it fits the few facts I know.

I'll start by giving Larry Page, and Google, my trust when they say it's a voice problem and not something more serious. I wouldn't have trusted Steve Jobs on that sort of question because of his reality distortion field. But I think Google is genetically disinclined to lie about something so important to investors. I think they mean it when they say they try to avoid evil.

The mystery is that if Page has a simple voice problem, why not give more details and be done with it? That's a fair question and one that I have seen being asked in the press. Here's where my experience with my own voice problems can give you some insight. I think there might be a very good reason he's not providing details.

For starters, even the best doctors in the world would have trouble diagnosing spasmodic dysphonia. It's sufficiently rare that most doctors have never seen it, and most have probably never heard of it. It can present in a few different ways, and because it's rare, doctors would look for more pedestrian causes first and try to treat what they know how to treat just to see what happens. A patient with not-yet-confirmed spasmodic dysphonia might receive treatment for bronchitis and even get a brain scan to look for tumors. A sudden loss of your voice can come from several sources. Doctors start with the easy guesses and eliminate possibilities as they go. Page might not have a definitive diagnosis yet.

Here's the insight I'll add to this speculation: Spasmodic dysphonia usually presents itself in a way that appears to be a mental/emotional problem brought on by stress. One of the oddities of the condition is that you can often speak normally to your pet but you can't speak to humans. Sometimes you can sing or recite a poem but you can't answer a question. For many years the medical community classified spasmodic dysphonia as a mental problem. At one point in my search for a cure, I ended up in a psychologist's office turning down her offer for Valium. Her best guess what that stress had rendered me unable to speak in certain situations. I've heard from other people who have spasmodic dysphonia that they too got the "crazy" diagnosis before figuring out the real problem.

So if you're the head of a major corporation, and doctors haven't yet ruled out "crazy," you would be wise to keep it to yourself, especially if you don't feel especially crazy, and it isn't affecting other parts of your behavior. But I know from experience that loved ones, friends, and even doctors will tell a person with spasmodic dysphonia to simply relax, as if that is enough to make the voice problem go away. The implication is that you're emotionally unbalanced and everyone knows it but you. It's a living hell when you lose your voice and everyone around you treats you like a mental patient. Trust me on that.

I have no idea what Larry Page's actual voice problem is. I hope it's something simple and that he's already on the path to fixing it. But if the problem happens to be spasmodic dysphonia, I'd be happy to help him figure out what works and what doesn't. A brilliant doctor cured my spasmodic dysphonia with a relatively simple surgery on the nerves in my neck. But it took me three years to find the one doctor (at the time) who had pioneered the surgery: Dr. Gerald Berke at UCLA.

Interestingly, I diagnosed my own voice problem as spasmodic dysphonia by using Google. And Google Alert later provided me with the trail of breadcrumbs that allowed me to find the doctor with a cure. So, Larry, if your voice problem turns out to be spasmodic dysphonia, send me an email (dilbertcartoonist@gmail.com) and I'll shortcut your research for a cure. I owe you one.

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Jul 23, 2012
I'm glad you've found a cure Scott and I'm glad you continue to help others. I have SD and singer Johnny Bush was the angel that helped me diagnose what I had (and took me to his doctor). I had not heard about Larry Page's voice troubles. I hope he finds an answer, too. Hearing "just relax!" and "what are you NOT saying?" and on and on is certainly no help.
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 23, 2012
Lovely post, Scott. Great to know you're cured, and I hope Larry is too.
And I think mentioning your email address was superfluous - Larry knows it, and your phone number, and where you are right now, and what you were browsing for last night!
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 19, 2012
It would be so awesome if it turned out that he saw this and was helped by it. Coincidences (if there is such a thing) of that magnitude are fantastic.
Jul 18, 2012
"I owe you one."
That made me all warm and fuzzy inside.
Jul 18, 2012
You're a good guy, Scott.
Jul 18, 2012
I love this post, Scott.

Now I owe you one.
Jul 18, 2012
In this case c i r c u m s t a n c e s was the censored word - I wasn't being rude (for once!).
Jul 18, 2012
@Those who are cynical about Google's intent, evil or otherwise

I am as cynical as the next guy but let's look at the banks and other major institutions for comparison. As far as the China thing goes any decision made is a compromise. I would be loath to suggest that they did not make the best compromise available without knowing the full !$%*!$%*!$%*!$ Perhaps a limited service helps the Chinese citizenry towards democracy better than a full refusal to engage at all - I just am not privy to the decision making process so feel condemnation a little premature. History will render it's verdict in due course we can be sure, so until then without clear sign of evil intent I think it wise to give them a pass.
Jul 18, 2012
When I was younger, I had a severe speech impediment affecting my pronunciation of R's and W's. In my head I sounded normal, so when I said tree, it sounded like tree in my head. But what was really coming out of my mouth and what other people heard was twee.

It was so freaking frustrating! I was so young and People couldn't understand me and I couldn't understand why they couldn't understand me. So generally people would treat you like your stupid...

I wasn't aware that my speech was so distorted sounding until I had some speech therapy in 2nd and 3rd grade.I was literally taught how to properly use my tongue in pronunciation of words.

I was lucky to have access to a good speech therapist at a public school. Many kids are not... And the unlucky ones end up being ridiculed and rejected throughout life.

Unfortunately most people are ignorant to neuro speech pathology... No matter how intelligent a individual is with a speech impediment, congenital or acute. People will automatically prejudge and assume that that individual with the impediment is either crazy, or of lesser intelligence.

Sometimes I wonder how many great minds have been ignored due to their funny speaking.

i understand why Mr page would hide his speech problem. People can be quite cruel.

Of coarse he also has a high profile, so he would be a good canidate for advocacy for the speech impaired.
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 18, 2012
Very Classy post, I hope Larry sees this and it helps him.
Also, regarding Google's "don't be evil," at least they try. Compare Google to BofA or Citibank...
Hmm, not to hijack this thread, but everyone does realize that if you bank with a "too big to fail," bank, that you support bank bailouts, right? And that the fastest way to fix a bank being "too big to fail," is for depositors to leave the bank and go to a different one? Sorry, the Stickopoly thing is still rattling around in my brain.
Jul 17, 2012
I have a similar story of Google helping diagnose where medical experts could not determine my illness.

Disclaimer: Don't get medical advice from me. This is an anecdote only.

What started as a simple stutter and short, painful ear aches in grad school had evolved into full-on ear spasms, difficulty swallowing and a constant feeling of "fogginess", as in, I always felt like I was in a haze and my lower body always felt jittery. I first saw a doctor who suspected it was stress/anxiety and prescribed anti-anxiety medication. It had no effect. Another doctor referred me to an Ear-Nose-Throat specialist. The specialist found nothing wrong with those areas. He sent me to an allergist. Also, nothing. I visited a sleep doctor who said it was sleep apnea and had me buy an expensive machine. It also didn't work.

At my wit's end, constantly fatigued and unable to drive for more than half an hour at a time or sleep without feeling nauseous, I Googled my symptoms and came across something called TMJ disorder (It's the jaw joint just in front of the ear). It's list of symptoms are exhaustive: TMJ can be a cause, an effect, a side-effect, or some combination from any number of issues.

Essentially, years of grad school, an old football injury, a new workplace injury, bad posture and a new exercise regime all came together to cause my neck, shoulders, back and jaw to tense up and cause adverse effects. So, I Googled ways to treat it.

Problem: everybody's case of TMJ is unique, so after 6 more months of various treatments (from massage to chiropractic to physiotherapy to stretching), I Googled the expert in the field, bought his book and, armed with new knowledge, approached my dentist. He prescribed a mouthpiece to stop me from grinding at night and sent me to a local physiotherapist. He had me take up yoga to find the parts of my body that built up tension, as opposed to those that became tense by association. Every time I learned something new, I would search Google for information to deepen my understanding.

And now, two years later, I am nearly symptom free (TMJ recurs quite easily, so I avoid trigger foods and focus on proper posture).

Since TMJ mimics many other conditions, and since there are so few TMJ experts, it took a curious (and desperate) individual, armed with a massive database, to solve his own problems.

Good luck, Mr. Page, and may your company's software help you in your recovery. Google gave me my life back.

Jul 17, 2012
"I think they mean it when they say they try to avoid evil."

You what? You think… hhhhehhhhhheee… ahem… you think they meaaaa-a-aaahahaha-hahahahaaa…ahhh… *cough* Ahem. You think… !$%*!$%*! they meaaaaan it… w-…when… [snort] they say. They. Try. To. Avoidddadddddh-h-hhhhahahaha-hah-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaaaa… stobbitstobbitstobbit!!! It's too much I'mgonnapeemyself….. ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhiieeeeeeeeeeeeee!
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2012
Has your cure been 100% Scott? No problems talking on the phone? Or in a crowded restaurant when it's slightly noisy?

[Actually better than 100%. My post-surgery voice is far better at talking over crowd noise than it was before the spasmodic dysphonia. That's in large part because I did a lot of voice therapy before the surgery and learned how to speak properly. (It's a teachable skill.) While I have no signs of SD, I do get a bit hoarse sounding if I'm tired, as if recovering from a cold I had last week. But it doesn't affect how well people hear me. So I'll say I'm 120% cured. -- Scott]
-3 Rank Up Rank Down
Jul 17, 2012
I realize that this was a throw-away comment that had essentially nothing to do with the blog post, but Google's motto is "don't be evil", not "try to avoid evil". This is important because "don't be evil" is a boolean (yes/no), and "try to avoid evil" is meaningless. Scandal after scandal has long since proven that they do not live or act by this motto and are as unscrupulous as the next company. See Safari scandal, street view scandal, China scandal, multiple advertising on search results page scandals, stealing phone book records scandal, and so on, and so forth. Mmmm scandal.
Jul 17, 2012
I'm glad to hear you're cured. I followed your various treatments over the years, but I never saw whether the last treatment had cured you or not.

Just as a point of curiosity - I think you once said that you could sing but not talk - or you could talk to a large group where you had to project, but not to someone one-on-one. I know that people who stutter are often able to sing without stuttering - I wonder if the two conditions are related in some way, and if the operation that cured you could be used for stutterers for whom other treatments did not work? Just wondering.

Again, it's great to know your have been cured, and that it's lasted over time. Congrats.
Jul 17, 2012
I hope Larry has a Google alert set up on his name! Thanks for finishing with "I owe you one"
Jul 17, 2012
On one hand I could see why most people would think that disorder has to do with some form of insanity. However with a little research I see it is the moist robot's "program" picked up a flaw in the call to the voice funtion in a neurology sense and not the psychology sense.
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