Brain MRI - can it cause hearing loss? are foam plugs enough?

Going to have an MRI with dye, and wondering how loud it was? I know I can wear foam plugs, but is that enough to protect my remaining hearing? is there a risk of hearing damage? what about a plastic shooting range earmuff thingy? Like I need one more hearing think to worry about. Thanks

I had a head/brain MRI a couple of years ago. It’s not that loud once you have the ear plugs in. You will be fine.

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They gave me headphones to wear and pipe in music. Even though I told them I was deaf. But I think the headphones were more to help deal with the claustrophobia created by the mri. Just close your eyes

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I have moderately severe loss, it didn’t trouble me but I also couldn’t hear them talking to me during the procedure. You will probably be given ear plugs if you ask, but you may prefer to do without so that you can hear them talking to you. Be prepared, write down what you need with regard to communication & ideally have someone with you. I had a family chaperone who can communicate by holding my hand & speaking loudly near my ear. This would need to be organised beforehand so it depends on what’s required for your hearing loss. I had a chat with the MRI team beforehand.

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thanks - did it seem like the headphones were provided as part of the “hearing protection?”

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It’s not really so much for hearing protection as more a way to try and keep the person in the mri calm so as they don’t panic to much and move around when they need them to keep still for the process

No. My impression was the headphones were provided to help me relax. An mri can be very confining. I’m not trying to scare but I found that closing my eyes and thinking other things helped. We took a break about half way through and I told the tech that she could take the headphones back because I couldn’t hear them and she did. There was never any mention they were to protect my hearing. And I couldn’t wear my aids during the mri.

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In my hospital, they said the headphones could play relaxing sounds. I couldn’t hear a thing. I just went to sleep.

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If you are having a head/brain mri then no headphones. Otherwise they may have them. I’ve done several because of my loss (acoustic neuroma) and it’s not that bad but yes, hearing the directions can be a challenge.

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I had an mri where only my head went into the machine, tight quarters. And I wore headphones. Also there were no orders to follow and I never would have heard them without my aids. Are you sure you’re not thinking cat scan. Anyway I don’t know if an mri makes a banging noise or not but I can’t imagine considering the length of an mri that it could cause damage. Either way I would mention the concern to the technician doing the test.

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When l had my brain MRI, depending on the imaging machine, l used ear plugs even thru l have very profound hearing loss. It’s the vibration of the machine and felt like l was on top of a speeding train. I won’t go back to that imaging center again.

I have quite a severe loss, but can still just hear without my hearing aids if someone talks loudly to me. For my head/brain MRI, I was given ear plugs. I don’t remember headphones. There was a monitor so that I could see them in the control room. That helps with any claustrophobia. But that didn’t worry me.

There is quite a lot of noise I found, but it was rather like listening to House music in a dance club (not that I have done that in person!). The rhythm and the tones I could hear changed several times. It took about 20 minutes.

In any case I didn’t find it uncomfortably loud and just did my best not to move at all. I certainly didn’t worry about it making my hearing loss worse.

I have had two MRI’s in the past year. It would have been better if I had them in the reverse order.
Last month, I had a knee MRI. I wore foam plugs and headphones (but no music) and it worked well.
Last Spring, I had an inner-ear MRI with dye. I wore only foam plugs. But one plug didn’t expand perfectly.

Around 20 years ago I had an MRI for the first time and had no idea what to expect. The experience was horrible, like I had a front-row seat at a special performance of The Dance of the Hammers from Hell. As icing on the cake, when it was over I saw they had a box of foam earplugs but didn’t tell me that was an option. I was livid.

Fast forward to the last few years and I’ve had reason for more MRIs. The machines today are quieter, but still unpleasant without hearing protection. I always use foam earplugs now, and the noise is a complete non-issue. As a motorcyclist I have a lot of experience with foam earplugs, and I know there are many out there who don’t know how to use them.

Roll one down to a point on one end. If inserting it in the right ear, put your left arm behind your head, grab your right ear at the upper-mid point and gently tug it outward to open the canal. Insert the rolled-down point of the plug into the right canal and slide it in with a twisting motion. (Note that it will start expanding slowly once you stop twisting it, so work expeditiously.) There is likely a curve in your ear canal. I’ve found mine only work if I get them into that curve part. Repeat for the other side.

Here’s the important part. Wait a minute or two for the plugs to expand. They’re not in correctly unless you get a distinct ‘vacuum sealed’ sensation where all of the hiss of low-level background noise drops away, a sense that you are truly alone inside your head. It’s hard to describe, but you’ll know it once you experience it. It’s worth buying a set at a drug store and trying it beforehand. All the foam plugs are pretty similar but there are differences. I’ve had good experience with the Mack brand.

Other pointers: The MRI staff try to work quickly, which means you need to work fast to get the plugs in. Let them know that fitting those properly is important and they should give you some breathing room. Also if you’re getting contrast dye they will want to get you intubated early on, which leaves you only one hand to get the plugs in. Not optimal. Get them in first.

EDIT: You might ask for plugs before you change out of your street clothes and put them in before you get to the MRI room. If your hearing loss isn’t too severe you should still be able to converse with the staff. This is another thing to experiment with if you try plugs at home. /EDIT

You probably won’t hear much over the headphones, and might struggle to hear their voices through headphones when they’re in the control booth. If it’s an option, you might want to ask them to skip the music so you can hear them better. I suspect the music is to relax the patient and minimize fidgeting. I’ve always found it’s best to disregard the music, ensure you are in a position that you can maintain motionless for half an hour, then just drop into a deeply relaxed, passive, energy-free state of mind.

The Dance of the Hammers is actually kind of intriguing at reasonable volume.

A medical journal paper on the subject:

MRI Noise and Hearing Loss

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