Why You Wear Hearing Protection During an MRI Scan

When you schedule an MRI, there isn’t too much you need to do to prepare for it. When you arrive at the scan site, you’ll be given a gown to change into, then escorted into the MR system room; it’s simple.

You’ll remove all metal objects, like jewelry, from your body. The MRI technician will ask you about any possible metal implants. In addition to all this, though, you might put on some form of hearing protection. If you don’t have your own, facility staff will provide earplugs. But why?

While MRI machines don’t damage hearing, the MRI scan is loud, which can add to feelings of anxiety. This can disrupt communication between patients and MRI technicians. It might even cause some patients to halt the scan.

The sounds aren’t dangerous, but they’re not pleasant, either. Staff at diagnostic imaging centers strive to make patients’ experiences as comfortable as possible; that’s the main reason for the hearing protection.

Why Do MRI Machines Make Noise?

During an MRI, a current passes through gradient coils lining the inside of the machine. This process creates the images, but it also creates loud knocking sounds. Noise levels during a scan are typically around 65-95 decibels, but sometimes can reach as high as 110 decibels (about the level of a rock concert). Because the human ear is such a sensitive thing, these noises can cause young, healthy individuals to experience slight hearing loss after a single MRI scan, even when wearing ear protection.

A study conducted by Jian Yang, PhD, and colleagues at Xi’an Jiaotong University in Shaanxi Province in China tested the hearing levels of 11 men and 15 women who were 18-26 years old before, immediately after, and 25 days post a single MRI scan. The researchers tested the subjects’ hearing 24 hours before the scan for a baseline reading. Then they fitted each subject with earplugs and motion-restrictive sponge mats during a 51 minute scan.

The researchers tested the subject’s hearing levels immediately after the scan and noticed an increase in decibel threshold for all participants—though nothing ever reached a level to cause permanent damage. Twenty-five days after the scan, they ran another test on the subjects’ hearing. All signs of alteration in the hearing were gone.

Choosing Hearing Protection for an MRI Scan

Earplugs protect hearing, but they also help to keep patients as comfortable as possible. If you’re easily made uncomfortable in small spaces, and you’re distracted by loud noises, it’s a good idea to use earplugs. Most MRI technicians will supply you with a pair before going in for a scan, but you can bring your own if that’s a more comfortable option. Any store-bought earplugs with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) of 25 or higher are safe to use for an MRI scan.

You can also find MR-rated safe ear protection to use. Anything with the MR safety stamp of approval won’t distort or interfere with the magnetic field during a scan.

While there’s nothing to fear when getting an MRI, some patients have found them stressful. Ear protection is a great way to ensure you remain comfortable during the procedure, which will allow the healthcare professionals to get the best results.

For more information on MRI scans or to book an appointment, call BestPriceMRI.com at 888-322-7785 today.

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