Google CEO Larry Page discloses ‘extremely rare’ vocal cord affliction

“Google CEO Larry Page has disclosed a problem with his vocal cords that makes it difficult for him to speak and breathe occasionally, but he says he remains fit enough to keep running the Internet’s most influential company,” Michael Liedtke reports for The Associated Press.

“The explanation that Page posted Tuesday on his Google Plus profile cleared up a mystery hanging over him since he lost his voice a year ago, causing him to miss Google Inc.’s annual shareholders meeting in June and a conference call to discuss the company’s quarterly earnings in July,” Liedtke reports. “Yet Page, the company’s co-founder and CEO for the past two years, conceded that all is not completely well with him. Page, who is 40, says his left vocal cord has been paralyzed since coming down with a severe cold 14 years ago, while Google was still in its formative stages. That issue was compounded last year with another cold that Page says impaired his right vocal cord, though it still has limited movement.”

Liedtke reports, “Page’s unavailability last year spooked investors, especially those who remembered Apple Inc.’s initial refusal to disclose the extent of co-founder Steve Jobs’ health problems. Jobs took two formal medical leaves as Apple’s CEO before resigning from the job about six weeks before his death from cancer. When Page had his health issue, Google had simply said Page was dealing with a throat problem that wouldn’t get in the way of his job.”

Read more in the full article here.

Via his Google+ page, here’s Larry Page’s full post, verbatim:

About 14 years ago, I got a bad cold, and my voice became hoarse. At the time I didn’t think much about it. But my voice never fully recovered. So I went to a doctor and was diagnosed with left vocal cord paralysis. This is a nerve problem that causes your left vocal cord to not move properly. Despite extensive examination, the doctors never identified a cause — though there was speculation of virus-based damage from my cold. It is quite common in cases like these that a definitive cause is not found.

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. But I was told that sequential paralysis of one vocal cord following another is extremely rare.

Fast forward to last summer, when the same pattern repeated itself — a cold followed by a hoarse voice. Once again things didn’t fully improve, so I went in for a check-up and was told that my second vocal cord now had limited movement as well. Again, after a thorough examination, the doctors weren’t able to identify a cause.

Thankfully, after some initial recovery I’m fully able to do all I need to at home and at work, though my voice is softer than before. And giving long monologues is more tedious for me and probably the audience. But overall over the last year there has been some improvement with people telling me they think I sound better. Vocal cord nerve issues can also affect your breathing, so my ability to exercise at peak aerobic capacity is somewhat reduced. That said, my friends still think I have way more stamina than them when we go kitesurfing! And Sergey says I’m probably a better CEO because I choose my words more carefully. So surprisingly, overall I am feeling very lucky.

Interestingly, while the nerves for your vocal cords take quite different routes through your body, they both pass your thyroid. So in searching for a cause for both nerves that was an obvious place to look. I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis in 2003. This is a fairly common benign inflammatory condition of the thyroid which causes me no problems. It is unclear if this is a factor in the vocal cord condition, or whether both conditions were triggered by a virus.

In this journey I have learned a lot more about voice issues. Though my condition seems to be very rare, there are a significant number of people who develop issues with one vocal nerve. In seeing different specialists, I met one doctor — Dr. Steven Zeitels from the Harvard Medical School and the Massachusetts General Hospital Voice Center — who is really excited about the potential to improve vocal cord nerve function. So I’ve arranged to fund a significant research program through the Voice Health Institute, which he will lead. Thanks a bunch to my amazing wife Lucy, for her companionship through this journey and for helping oversee this project and get it off the ground. Also, thanks to the many people who have helped with advice and information many of whom I have not had a chance to thank yet.

Finally, we’ve put together a patient survey to gather information about other people with similar conditions. As it’s fairly rare, there’s little data available today — and the team hopes that with more information they can make faster progress. If you have similar symptoms you can fill it out here: voicehealth.org/ip

29 Comments

    1. I wonder why he wants more personal information from people with a similar affliction?
      All he has to do is give them the email address or address of the Dr. and his hospital so that they can keep their patient /doctor information confidential.
      Even though he is not well and I for one wish him positive recovery, he should not be using his companies money for personal gain via the excuse of funding research.
      Steve Jobs funded research into his own ailment and left the doctors to source their own patients thus helping millions of people world wide with the break throughs they made.
      Larry’s collection of personal information is serving to clone him as a Bill Gates junior, he benefits from his philanthropy by investing in the companies that will later sell the results of their research.
      Is there any level Larry Page and Sergey Brin are not going to stoop to in competing with microsoft?

  1. This will come in handy perhaps when he’s finally dragged in front of a Congressional hearing to explain his company’s shameless cultivation of personal data as a freakin’ business model.

  2. guys, step off
    Apple lovers were quick to be protective of Steve Jobs’ privacy during his ordeal; let’s give Larry a pass on his health issue, m’kay?

  3. This sounds SIRI-ous! Apple got your tongue? peterblood71 beat me to it with the “Speak No Evil” motto. God obviously has a sense of humor. Apple left Larry speechless. I bet he won’t be using Google Glasses any time soon. His wife must be happy in that he can’t talk back.

    1. Right, so you lecture us in writing “fuck” or “cocksucker”, but you enjoy someone’s medical plight.

      I always thought you were a worthless fucker. This just reinforced it,

        1. Good language use? As defined by what?

          As far as your comment about his lying, I’m really not a fan of the company, how it is run or the people at the top. Quite a bunch of shameless thieves.

        2. Yes, perhaps it would be more productive for you and the community at MDN if you worked on addressing the issue put before you.

          There are certain names in the English language to describe people who make fun of someone’s medical plight.

          You just put yourself in that category.

          There are words in the English language for people who refuse to address the issue at hand and instead bring forth their own agenda.

          You just put yourself into that category as well.

          You just became another justification for colorful language, and while you may be an Apple fan that loves the fact that Apple strives for excellence it is most certainly demonstrated here that your own personal goals are of a much different nature.

  4. No laughing matter.

    Funny how Bloomberg reporters weren’t crawling all over this in full attack mode, unlike what they did to Steve Jobs. I have come to loathe Bloomberg for their slanted reporting.

  5. I predicted spasmodic dysphonia or muscle tension dysphonia which are still not well understood. It may be that “vocal cord paralysis” is part of the same syndrome. The reversal of a common saying phrase is very apt here….that is “easier done than said”.

    Most people of course, take the ability to speak (and many other functions) for granted, even though it is a incredible act of coordination. These types of conditions can be very devastating in terms of function but also emotionally, espcially as we are all judged by our voice and our appearance etc. That is how our brains are wired. I am highly impressed by anyone who can adapt to a condition like this.

  6. I hope he gets well. It sounds painfull, but hopefully he would survive this. No matter what you think of Google clandestinely joining the Illuminati Media NetWeb group of mind tracking software, and being responsible for the drones that Obama used to do the attacks at Benghazi and Boston, he still has a family, and we should still wish him the best.

  7. These comments. Do people really hate Google to the point where they would wish death on one of their employees? I like iPhone, and Android has been getting better lately, but please, show some class when talking about this.

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