Whether they are clicky, sticky or slurpy, mouth noises are a time-consuming pain for VO actors and anyone creating audio recordings. Depending on the nature of the recording, you either need to re-do it, edit out all those little sounds without affecting the speech, or foist the sounds on your listener.
Best just to avoid them in the first place.
Most mouth noises are caused by surface dryness of the tissue in the mouth and throat.
1. The obvious: Stay hydrated
Keeping adequately hydrated is obviously important, but there are other considerations. If sipping water was an adequate solution, I wouldn’t have so many people come to me to address the problem.
Here’s the main thing to remember about systemic hydration (meaning hydrating through what you eat and drink, which affects the whole system): the time to hydrate for today’s recording is yesterday.
For more detailed info about staying hydrated, visit my blog post Why you need to keep your voice moist (That’s right, I said “moist”!).
2. The essential: Topical hydration
One way to add moisture directly to the surface of the mouth is through wet snacks. Foods with a high water content like melons and cucumbers add moisture, and tart foods like green apples stimulate saliva production. While effective for some cases, this is typically a more short-term solution.
Because many mouth noises are related to the soft palate sticking to the back of the throat, inhaling and exhaling moist air through the mouth and nose gets to all of the relevant areas (as opposed to eating or drinking, which doesn’t bathe the palate area in moisture).
Inhaling steam is a tried and true way to directly hydrate the tissues of the mouth, nose, throat, and vocal folds. This can be done old-school by using a pot of just-boiled water and a towel, or by purchasing a personal steam inhaler which comes with a mask to better channel the steam.
A relatively new way to inhale hyper-humidified air is by using a portable, handheld nebulizer. While designed for administering asthma medications, voice users use simply 0.9% saline solution. This method is also the most effective way to hydrate the vocal cords themselves, which is important for keeping your voice clear, flexible, and healthy. Perhaps the greatest benefit to this method is its portability — you can use if for a few minutes in the middle of recording.
3. The bonus: Lozenges, sprays, and rinses
Popping a cough drop is an intuitive choice for many people dealing with mouth noises, but some lozenges actually make the problem worse. If a cough drop has menthol in it (which is helpful for cough suppression), it not only doesn’t hydrate the mouth, it makes it drier. There is an illusion of it helping because it causes salivation, but that is very short-lived.
Lozenges made with glycerin are the best choice, as glycerin lubricates the tissues. Grethers is a popular brand, and like many brands it includes a sugar-free option.
Finally, there are medical rinses and sprays on the market for dry mouth, and Biotène is a good brand. This should not be a routine go-to, and if you are adequately hydrated you won’t need it. But it can be helpful on those especially clicky days.