Not if the machine operates at 1.5 Tesla or less. According to industry data, about 98% of all MRI systems operate at 1.5 Tesla or less.
At these low fields, noise exposures are typically 100-110 dB, far below the threshold where Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) risk is significant (estimated near 130 dB).
Data suggests that most individuals exposed to 100-130 dB levels do not incur permanent hearing loss. Even at 3T, noise exposure is unlikely to exceed 120 dB, which is still below the threshold for noise-induced hearing loss, although not by much!
I would never recommend that workers or patients be exposed to anything more than what they already are on a daily basis.
How loud is an MRI in decibels?
It can generate up to 110 dB in MRI rooms. The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit used to express the ratio of one value of power or intensity to another reference, usually expressed as an integer. MRIs are not excessively loud, just slightly more than most things we encounter daily.
The recommended sound level for an MRI scanner would be 50 dBA at 5 feet from the noise source. I believe this refers to the maximum allowable exposure time and how close a person can be to the machine.
At 1.5 Tesla, the typical noise exposure is still not as loud as garbage disposal (91 dB), vacuum cleaner (88 dB), lawn mower (85 dB), food blender (80 dB), and city traffic (~75dB).
How can I protect my ears from an MRI?
The most common method of protection is earplugs. Earplugs are available in many forms, with the two most popular being disposable foam ear plugs and reusable custom molded ear plugs.
Disposable foam ear plugs are generally less costly but offer less noise reduction than the more expensive custom molded ear plugs, which can be purchased at local pharmacies or online.
The effectiveness of hearing protectors can range from minimal to excellent, depending on how well they fit your ears. Therefore, it is essential to make sure you purchase hearing protectors that are marked NRR (Noise Reduction Rating) or SNR (Single Number Rating).
Alternatively, one could wear headphones over their earplugs for audio during scans. However, it is unclear whether the high-intensity magnet field influences the performance of headphones or earbuds, as I could not find any relevant articles.
Are earplugs enough for MRI?
Earplugs are not perfect attenuators, and they do not block out all noise. Noise can escape through the ear canal and will be heard by the MRI worker unless the volume is set to a level that would damage the eardrum (generally over 110 dB).
Workers will most likely need to use hearing protection that covers both ears. Without covering both ears, any leakage past one plug could negate the benefit of using plugs altogether.
This form of hearing protection typically includes earmuffs or earplugs with an earmuff/headband combination.
There’s never any reason for an MRI machine to produce more than 100dB during scanning, so if you’re seeing it 120dB, I highly encourage you to contact the manufacturer and demand a refund.
Can I wear Airpods in MRI?
The short answer is no. They won’t be able to produce any audio as their batteries would have been fried from the magnetism within seconds.
If you want audio, consider noise-blocking headphones designed for productivity and comfort with active noise cancellation, or use high-fidelity speakers instead.
Can MRI worsen tinnitus?
MRIs aren’t going to make a person with normal hearing any worse off. It is challenging for a healthy ear to get worse from noise exposure unless someone leaves their iPod on full volume during imaging or something similar.
For those who have pre-existing conditions such as tinnitus, MRI may unmask the condition by creating phantom noises that weren’t there before scanning.
In general, I would recommend consulting your primary care physician about any concerning symptoms that surface after an MRI experience.
Is it safe to listen to headphones while inside the MRI machine?
Headphones should not be used in an MRI while being scanned because they will interfere with image quality and potentially cause a severe problem if they become magnetized. If you must use speakers, they must absolutely be magnetically shielded, and any wires should be properly grounded.
An example of magnetic shielding would be using ferromagnetic mesh to cover the speakers inside the MRI’s radio frequency (RF) room.
The RF room must remain hermetically sealed, which means speakers made with mesh cannot have the mesh removed without compromising their ability to shield against other things besides an MRI.
Magnetic shielding will block magnetic fields, but it also blocks radio waves used for imaging. As such, please do not bring anything with you into the RF room that contains electronics or wire unless you know it is designed to protect against both types of radiation. If unsure, ask before entering the room!
Why are MRI scanners so noisy?
The main noise you hear in the MRI scanner is from the magnetic field. This sound varies by machine configuration; typically, machines are rotating magnets of 2T or 1.5T in strength with decibel levels ranging from 80 to 110.
The sounds coming from equipment used for imaging, such as a radio-frequency coil, can be much louder given they run at higher power and may cause discomfort depending on the body part being imaged.
What is the quietest MRI machine?
The most recent generation of MRI machines has been designed to be 50 dB in operation, which is about the same level as a quiet conversation.
MRI noise levels depend on the strength of the magnetic field and various other factors, such as the type of bore, the thickness of surrounding materials, etc.
Workers at 1.5 Tesla or less are unlikely to sustain hearing loss from MRI noise alone without additional occupational hazards. It would be safe to say that workers can safely work in an MRI environment for up to an hour per day without hearing protection if needed.
However, it is always best practice to wear some protection even when not required! We hope this was helpful! Please contact us with any further questions!