Feature

Scott Adams’ lost voice

The 52-year-old Dilbert creator woke up one day with what he thought was laryngitis. It turned out to be spasmodic dysphonia, a rare condition that turns speech into a garbled series of croaks.

Scott Adams has been betrayed by his voice, says Brian Raftery in Wired. In April 2005, the 52-year-old Dilbert creator awoke with what he thought was laryngitis. But as weeks passed, his hoarse whisper gave way to an inability to speak at all, except in a garbled series of strangled croaks. A simple sentence like “Tomorrow is my birthday” would come out as “Ma robf sss ma birfday.” Social events became agony; usually his wife would have to interpret for him. “I’m a ghost,” he would think to himself. Adams had spasmodic dysphonia, a rare condition that originates in the brain and affects perhaps 50,000 people in all of North America. Adams tried everything—voice lessons, Botox, even behavior modification. “If I just do this one thing a little bit differently,” he told himself, “then I’ll be able to talk perfectly forever.” None of it worked. Then, one year ago, he underwent an operation that effectively rewired the connection between his brain and his larynx, and he has regained much of his lost vocal ability. Still, he’s found it necessary to relearn what used to be second nature. “If you don’t talk much at all for three and a half years,” he says, “you actually forget how to do it.”

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