Here’s What You Hear During an MRI Scan, And Why

While an MRI scan is a safe, non-invasive, and medically indispensable test, some patients get nervous when they hear the machine working. Some older MRI scanners do tend to be a bit noisy, with clunks and clicks that echo within the rounded bore. Without proper warning, the sounds of an MRI can be disconcerting.

The procedure may indeed be loud — but rest assured that, with proper ear protection, those noises are totally harmless. And your doctor wouldn’t order an MRI scan unless it was the best possible way to improve your health.

MRI scans work by using powerful electromagnetic waves to create detailed images of your body. During a standard scan, you lay on a movable platform, with your head secured in a headrest. The platform moves into place into the machine, so you’re laying inside a narrow tube.

As you might guess, that tube can amplify the sound of the machine operating. But that doesn’t change the operations that actually create the noise.

Why MRI Scanners Make Noise

As the MRI scan begins, pulses of electricity fire rapidly through metal coils (called gradient coils) inside the body of the machine. People report random, loud thumping, clicking, and banging sounds throughout a scan — and those electrical pulses are the cause of these noises.

When electricity passes through the gradient coils, the system creates a magnetic field. This controlled magnetic field is necessary for the creation of detailed images of soft tissue.

This process also causes the coils to vibrate during the scan, creating the banging sound. This noise is intensified by the fact that the patient is in a narrow tube (except in the cases of Open MRI), and the sound bothers some patients.

Muffling Sound During an MRI Scan

If sounds become too intense during your scan, or if you start to feel uncomfortable for any other reason, notify the technician. MRI scans can last anywhere from 15 minutes to over an hour, which is a long time to be dea with uncomfortable decibel levels.

How loud do MRI scanners get, exactly? A standard MRI uses a 1.5 Tesla (T) magnet, and can produce an average decibel range of 90- 110. The more powerful 3T MRI magnet can produces sounds up to 125 decibels. That’s loud enough to require ear protection, since extended exposure to sounds 80 decibels and over can eventually cause hearing loss.

Technologists give patients basic ear plugs to protect hearing a scan, but some patients prefer to use noise-canceling headphones and listen to music instead.

Learning More About MRI Scans and Their Sounds

If you’re concerned about the sounds you’ll experience during a scan, there are videos and recordings available that you can listen to beforehand. If you still don’t feel comfortable having a standard MRI, ask your doctor about having an Open MRI. Claustrophobic or hearing-sensitive patients might prefer an Open MRI because this option does not completely surround the body, and is less confining. offers a full range of MRI options, using the same board-certified staff and cutting-edge technologies as prestigious hospitals. Learn more on the site, or call us at 888-322-7785 to schedule an appointment today.