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Larry Page acknowledges creeping vocal paralysis

Google boss asks for public's help to cure condition

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

It has often been noted that Google's CEO Larry Page comes across as somewhat muted when speaking, which he took a break from entirely last year with an unexplained throat issue. Now he has revealed what the problem is.

His vocal issues began 14 years ago after a heavy cold left him very hoarse. His condition was diagnosed as partial paralysis of the left vocal cords, possibly as a result of the virus which sparked his initial cold.

"While this condition never really affected me – other than having a slightly weaker voice than normal which some people think sounded a little funny – it naturally raised questions in my mind about my second vocal cord," he said. "But I was told that sequential paralysis of one vocal cord following another is extremely rare."

Not rare enough, it seems. Last June he caught another cold and his voice got worse, with the right side of his vocal cords suffering serious damage. Again, no cause could be found, but Page took time off from public speaking until October's Google earnings call.

Page said that the problems also slightly affect his breathing abilities while exercising (although he claims his kiteboarding stamina is undiminished), and that although his voice is strong enough for work and home use, public speaking is tough.

Cofounder Sergey Brin tells Page it makes him a better CEO because he chooses his words carefully.

Over the course of his illness, Page said he ran into Dr. Steven Zeitels of the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center, and agreed to fund research into the problem and how it might be cured. But, frustratingly for a Googler, there's a lack of data.

Vocal paralysis isn't a widespread condition, and there is a lack of case-study evidence for the condition. Page, therefore, is asking members of the public to contribute their experiences of the condition to the Voice Health Project.

As El Reg has noted Page's voice has noticeably deteriorated over time, and he says he finds giving long-winded speeches tiresome, in any case. "So surprisingly, overall I am feeling very lucky," he says – although that won't stop him trying to find a cure. ®

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