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SOUNDS ODD  by Elizabeth Holmes
Fun Facts on the Science of Sound
9. Snap, Crackle & Jaw Pop!

For some of us, the wave form (at right) is a familiar gremlin. It’s the result of a jaw pop.

To hear what it sounds like on an audio track, listen for the faint, hollow pop that follows the word "You” in "Thank You” in this looped clip: click here.  

For me, this annoying mouth noise makes an unwelcome appearance when I’m tired, dehydrated or tense. Several of my voice over colleagues have told me that they also cope with this problem.  

Here’s how we solve it.  We either: 
  • Stop it at the source, or  
  • If it slips through, clean it up with audio software afterwards    
If this kind of mouth noise is a problem for you, read on! Help’s on the way.  

QUICK ANATOMY LESSON


Doctors who specialize in treating "jaw pops” call this condition temporomandibular disorder (TMD). Here's a simple anatomy lesson that explains the mechanics involved:  
  • The joint that attaches our ‘jawbones’ to our skulls is called the temporomandibular joint, (TMJ).  
  • Muscles surrounding this joint allow for movement from side to side, and up and down.   
  • When the TMJ is smooth and flexible, we talk, chew and yawn with ease.  
Most people who have TMD have had a TMJ injury. It can be painful, even years later. It can also cause restricted movement, such as trouble opening the mouth, or having the mouth be stuck open. (!) 

For voice actors, the most annoying part is the clicks, pops and grating noises that our ultra-sensitive microphones "hear.”  

STOPPING AT SOURCE


If you’re cleaning up mouth noise from TMD on your audio tracks, the following remedies may help you stop these sounds at the source:  
  • Apply moist heat or cold packs to swollen muscles.  
  • Avoid extreme jaw movements.  
  • Use relaxation techniques. The best pre-performance warm-up I’ve found so far is from Bettye Zoller. It involves a soft, open-mouthed yawn that gently stretches the jaw muscles. 
  • If you grind your teeth, look into wearing a splint or night guard.  
  • Balance the biting surfaces on your teeth if they’re out of alignment. 
  • Reduce inflammation of affected muscles with: a) over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) b) pharmaceutical prescription medication (see your doctor) c) low-level laser therapy d) TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) therapy, which is a mild electrical pulse that a TENS unit sends through affected muscles to relieve pain.  
  • Correct your posture. Don’t hold the phone between your neck and shoulder. Don’t rest your chin on your hand. 
SPECIALTY SOFTWARE

Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. But if you need a pound of cure -  because those wave-form gremlins are still popping up - there are a variety of options open to you. 

Most voice over software programs offer a range of remedies for mouth noises. Training tips for the more popular programs are beyond the scope of this article, but stay tuned to VoiceOverXtra for Dan Lenard's upcoming webinar on Cleaning Up Your Audio.

In the meantime, I’m told that iZotope RX™  2 editing software is the software of choice for "jaw poppers.”  

This is an audio repair toolkit that will help you suppress and remove unwanted noises. For details, please consult vo tech blogs and see iZotope RX™  2’s website at:  www.izotope.com/products/audio/rx.    

For more on Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), please consult your physician, or see Web MD’s helpful summary and recommendations by clicking here.
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ABOUT ELIZABETH

Elizabeth Holmes is a writer, voice actor, and staff editor at VoiceOverXtra, based in Northern California. She is also editor of VoiceOverXtra's book division, including Voice Over Legal, by voice actor / attorney Robert Sciglimpaglia. For earlier columns in this series, please type "Sounds Odd" in the SEARCH box at the top of this web page.
Email: elizabeth@HolmesVoice.com

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Comments (6)
Bettye Zoller
1/26/2013 at 8:52 PM
Thank you, Elizabeth, for the nice mention in your TMJ article (don't ask me to spell that...I Can't!) And do by all means see your DENTIST. They recommend this gizmo you sleep in that helps the condition. But my exercise you mentioned, it's called "the YAWN SIGH" - the open mouth drops the jaws slowly and carefully with NO TENSION in the jaw hinges. Then, just let the jaws hang open like that for about three or four seconds and gently close. Thanks again for the mention. Great article.
Elizabeth Holmes
1/14/2013 at 12:06 PM
Ken -- Thank you for the link to that fascinating article on yawning! Who knew that something so simple could have such amazing benefits.

Joel -- Thanks for the feedback on RX 2. It was recommended to me by another 'jaw popper' who said the same thing: "Works great, but requires work!"

Fred -- In the course of researching this article, I was surprised to learn that neck cricks (from holding a phone against your ear, for example) could cause jaw popping problems. It makes sense that chiropractic adjustments would bring relief. Thanks for sharing this.
AudioRichter
1/14/2013 at 12:03 PM
iZotope Rx is my go-to plug in for any kind of audio forensics. It is truly amazing for buzzes, hums... you name it! For the really adventurous, it is great for sound design/FX! ie: Radio Imaging productions.
It's your doctor's scalpel for audio repair!
Fred Humberstone
1/14/2013 at 10:42 AM
I have also suffered from this problem on occasions in the past. I have found a trip to my chiropractor for a thorough adjustment to my spine and jaw quickly corrects the problem.
Joel Richards
1/14/2013 at 6:52 AM
Although I don't suffer from TMD I can speak to the efficacy of RX 2. It is a bit intimidating, though!
Ken Karp
1/14/2013 at 6:26 AM
Fine, relevant piece (with damning graphic to make the point), thanks! The simple act of making a conscious effort to relax the throat - sometimes I was bringing a certain, entirely unnecessary tightness to the mic - can make the difference. This goes to that...

http://www.upenn.edu/gazette/1109/expert.html
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