Noises to Expect During an MRI

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) provides plenty of advantages to both the patient and doctor. However, many patients associate this test with the loud noises that happen in the MRI chamber. You may wonder why an MRI machine makes such loud noises and what to expect for your first test. Learn more about the sounds you can expect during an MRI.

How Loud Is an MRI?

Man getting MRI scan

The loudness of an MRI scan depends on the specific procedure and the machine used. MRI noises can range anywhere from 65 decibels to 130 decibels. They can often go above 90 to 100 decibels, requiring the patient to wear ear protection. For your reference, common loud noises measure at these decibel levels:

  • 70 decibels: Alarm clock or vacuum cleaner
  • 94 decibels: Food processor or blender
  • 112 decibels: Rock concert or chainsaw
  • 120 decibels: Jet plane takeoff
  • 130 decibels: Construction jackhammer

Why Is an MRI So Loud?

An MRI machine creates loud noises because of the technology behind it. MRI uses an incredibly strong magnetic field to create images of your body’s tissues. Many scanners have magnets that produce fields as much as 60,000 times the strength of the earth’s magnetic field. The earth generates a magnetic field that measures at 0.5 gauss. An MRI creates fields that we measure in Teslas, or units that equal 10,000 gauss each. You can find MRI machines that create fields as high as three Tesla.

Every MRI machine has metal coils known as gradient coils that create the noises we associate with MRIs. When the gradient coils receive electrical pulses, they generate a magnetic field. Each pulse makes the coils vibrate and create loud noises. Since the scanner has a hollow inside, these sounds echo and become louder.

Types of MRI Noises to Expect

technologist conducting MRI scanYou may hear different kinds of noises during an MRI scan. Every electric pulse sequence creates a distinct sound based on the waveform of the current. MRI technologists use different pulse sequences and orientations to capture the angle, contrast and area they need. Patients use different words to describe the sounds they hear, including:

  • Banging
  • Clicking
  • Whirring
  • Clanging
  • Beeping

How Will My Technologist Protect My Ears?

During an MRI scan, the technologist will provide headphones to protect your ears from loud MRI sounds. At Envision Imaging, our technologists provide headphones that play music during your scan.

Will Future MRI Technology Become Quieter?

Some MRI machines have a design meant to reduce the noise it makes during scans. Currently, this technology tends to compromise image quality in exchange for less noise. As MRI technology develops, researchers hope to create a quieter machine with clear images.

Schedule an MRI at Envision Imaging

At Envision Imaging, we know that some patients feel intimidated by MRIs. Our staff always prioritizes your comfort and will help you understand the MRI process. Schedule an appointment at one of our practices by finding a location in your area.