Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners are indeed a medical marvel. Given their capabilities of producing highly detailed images of an individual’s internal organs and soft tissue, doctors can provide more effective and accurate diagnoses. These hefty machines contain many complex components, as they need to support the principles of nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy to generate such precise pictures.
The machine uses the magnetic field to work on the protons present in the human body to isolate or detect abnormalities, lining these particles up. As a result, it generates an incredibly loud noise, which sometimes bothers or scares patients.
The Expected Noises in an MRI
When undergoing an MRI scan, you’ll likely hear various noises. Each electric pulse sequence the machine produces subsequently creates a unique sound based on the current’s waveform. MRI technologists utilize different pulse sequences to seize the area, angle, and contrast required for their scanning.
As a result, patients hear many different noises that they often describe as banging, whirring, clicking, and beeping. Most technologists provide headphones to shield the ears from loud noises, with some even playing music. Many engineers and scientists have begun working on designing MRI machines that operate significantly more silent.
The Loudness of an MRI
How loud an MRI scan gets often depends on the machine and procedure. MRI noises range anywhere from 65 decibels to 130 decibels, requiring individuals to wear ear protection. Regular human conversations are often at 65 decibels, making it roughly the standard noise level safe for humans, so consistent exposure to noises or sounds above 70 decibels may damage hearing.
To put this into perspective, the persistent alarm clocks that incessantly ring every morning, along with vacuum cleaners, clock at 70 decibels. Blenders and food processors often mark at 94 decibels. Most rock concerts or chainsaws hit a level of 112 decibels, and jackhammers found in construction measure at 130 decibels.
The Reason MRIs are So Loud
MRIs produce such loud noises because of the strong magnetic field it uses to deliver detailed images of a patient’s tissue. The scanners use gradient coils, which are powerful electromagnets that are so strong, they generate fields approximately 60,000 times stronger than Earth’s magnetic field. These MRI coils slightly warp the stable area that runs down the scanner. The main magnet contains three carefully arranged coils to distort the main field in three dimensions that pulse rapidly, allowing it to scan the point of interest across the structures it must capture.
Each of the generated pulses causes the MRI coils to deflect slightly, producing a vibration in the air. The pulses measure around 110 decibels. They reverberate in a scanner with a hollow interior and therefore echo loudly, explaining why the machines are so noisy.
MRI scanners are cutting-edge technology pieces that have offered astoundingly precise images of the human body’s soft tissues and internal organs, expanding the medical field by leaps and bounds. They also don’t come with any potential biohazards, making them safe for most people. However, the loud noises frighten many patients, although these are just byproducts of the machine doing its work. With quieter MRI scanners on the way, this fantastic device will produce even more breakthroughs than before.
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