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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May 15, 2013
I realize it's been a while, but Larry Page has posted about his voice issues.
Either google "larry page voice" for many links about it, or check out his Google post:
Nov 13, 2012
[Also I can't imagine the !$%*!$%*! I'm going to have to go through trying to convince my insurance to pay for it. It actually seems easier to just not talk.]

[That might be less trouble than you think. I was expecting a fight and got none. -- Scott]

Maybe. Then again maybe you have better insurance or a fan in the insurance bureaucracy, Scott. Not saying its not worth shooting for, ScottJBennett, but, like you, I wouldn't be surprised if they say no.
Nov 12, 2012

How is your singing voice post surgery (if you've tried)? Just curious. I can never sing right on botox, but am pretty much fine when I'm off it. Wondering if it's the same deal.

[My voice isn't good for singing. But it wasn't good before, either. It's safe to say no one would resume a singing career after this sort of surgery. -- Scott]
Nov 12, 2012
"There is zero chance he's unaware of my offer. -- Scott"

Well if you know for a certainty that he is aware of the offer, why did you feel the need to make it again? If he is absolutely positively definitely aware that you've made the offer - but he has not got in touch - surely that means that he is not interested?
Nov 10, 2012
@ Kingdinosaur, Dilbro,
I agree with you entirely.
A reputed doctor I know, with a thriving practice, dismisses any medical problem he cannot diagnose with "Everything is all right with him/her (the patient), he only has a psychological problem."
Nov 9, 2012
I don't know that you'd call it "experimental", but it's not mainstream. There is 1 guy who does this particular surgery (maybe more now, but until recently it was just him), so it hasn't been done very many times. And of course it's not 100% successful, so there is risk that I'd be left with a much worse voice forever. I've had a couple disastrous Botox injections, where I had 2-3 months of literally no voice at all, but at least that stuff wears off eventually.

As for cost, I'm not sure. A minor fractured arm cost us about $4000 last year, so I can't imagine neurological surgery with general anesthesia costing anything less than $100k. If the insurance says no, then it's off the table, at least for me.

[I think the surgery was in the $25K range, plus travel. My insurance paid for most of it. -- Scott]
Nov 9, 2012

Is it still too experiment? How expensive is this surgery?
Nov 9, 2012
I have had the same poor response to Botox as you. Hate it and stopped a few years ago. Tried Dr. Cooper too, which sort of worked for a few months. That was almost worth the money just to hang out with that dude though. He's hilarious.

I've been holding off on the surgery to see whether it had worn off on you over time! I guess it's been a couple years right? Also I can't imagine the !$%*!$%*! I'm going to have to go through trying to convince my insurance to pay for it. It actually seems easier to just not talk.

[That might be less trouble than you think. I was expecting a fight and got none. -- Scott]
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 9, 2012
You've nailed the biggest lesson from Scott's experience (in my opinion)...

"Scott your post makes me wonder: how many conditions go incorrectly diagnosed for the simple reason that the doctor never experienced the symptoms or someone with the symptoms?"

I agree 100%.
Good luck convincing a doctor that something they aren't familiar with is physically real.
Nov 9, 2012
Maybe Larry Page simply prefers to try and see if some injections work before he has a surgeon slice open his neck.

[Yes, if he has SD his doctors would recommend injections first. That is standard practice. But by now he would know the limitations of that approach. It's nice to know your options. -- Scott]
Nov 9, 2012
Scott, I've got to echo whtllnew - Larry may have no idea that you have made this offer. After all, YOU never contacted ME about the offer I made on MY webpage......does that mean you weren't interested? Or have no idea the offer was even made?

A letter to Google Inc. Headquarters (Personal for Larry Page) seems in order.

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View, CA 94043

[There is zero chance he's unaware of my offer. It's more likely that he's already researched all of the options. -- Scott]
Nov 9, 2012
Scott your post makes me wonder: how many conditions go incorrectly diagnosed for the simple reason that the doctor never experienced the symptoms or someone with the symptoms?
Nov 9, 2012
Scott, how about an update on you? Many of us have followed your problem and the solutions you've tried, and I know that your surgery helped, but really, how are you doing? Are there any lingering effects from the disease? Since we don't have the opportunity to talk with you (although as your self-appointed campaign advisor, not speaking with you directly is certainly contributory to your results in the presidential election), we'd like to know how you're doing. Or perhaps, you could post a link to a sound clip of how you sound now, as you did with Mr. Page's former speaking voice.

I do hope you are doing well, of course. And who knows? Someday, we may actually converse voice-to-voice! Wow! What an honor that would be! For you, of course. I'm awesome! LOL!

[My voice is fully functional and stronger than it has ever been. For most of my life I couldn't talk above crowd noise and be heard, and now I can. The tradeoff is that my voice quality is uneven. Sometimes listeners think I sound a bit hoarse, sometimes I sound like a teen whose voice is about to change, but my ability to be understood is 100%. Prior to the operation people often have no idea what I was trying to say. -- Scott]
+1 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 9, 2012
You may want to check your spam filter, based on other things you've posted before about how things without DILBERT in the subject line get trashed.
Nov 8, 2012
Has it occurred to you to actively try to contact him? I can understand why you didnt before, but its starting to look like you beleive in your diagnosis and you're not tripping for doing so. Its also starting to look like none of the folks who follow this blog (how many is it? A thousand? Ten thousand?) know Larry Page well enough to get in touch with him. And you're famous enough that you could maybe manage it. Or at least someone who knows him.
+18 Rank Up Rank Down
Nov 8, 2012
Perhaps he's beta testing a throat implant for Google Voice 2.0
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