When an MRI Gets Your Tinnitus Ringing — Blog

I take out my headphones and wait for the technician to take me to the room with the MRI machine. I knew about the exercise from last year’s MRI, but sitting in the silence without headphones was still disconcerting. It is always in the silence where my tinnitus rears its ugly head.

At last year’s appointment, an unexpected friend with hearing loss helped me through the process (the technician had a child with a cochlear implant), but not this time. This technician focused solely on getting the job done. Good for me. Let’s get this over with!

Woman's face in profile.  She wears many different earrings.  The words Ringing Buzzing Humming are written next to it.

Duplicate for better hearing protection

We entered the space and she offered me headphones to protect my ears. I put them on my head, but they didn’t seem particularly heavy. Noise during an MRI can range from 65 – 130 decibels, with most at 100 dB or more. I sorely missed the Bose noise-cancelling headphones I use on airplanes to block out the noise.

“Are these headphones loud enough?” I asked. “I don’t want to aggravate my hearing loss.” We decided to double up. She added an extra pair of earplugs before placing the headphones back on my head. I was glad I asked for and received this extra protection. As someone with hearing loss, I appreciate the residual hearing that remains. And as a person with fortunately well-controlled tinnitus, I didn’t want anything unusual to cause a flare-up.

For 20 minutes I practiced yoga breathing (a slow count of six in and out through my nose) while the machine hummed and emitted its magical scans. With each pause in the noise, I assessed the level of my tinnitus. Was it the same as before? Had it increased? I couldn’t say it.

MRI and tinnitus: spike disappears at night

The procedure finished, I put on my hearing aids and headed home with the advice to drink plenty of water to drain the dye they had used for contrast. I felt a little dizzy. A little dizzy. A little off center, but I thought that was normal. And then the ringing started. Fortunately, it wasn’t terrible, but it was certainly elevated from my baseline lows.

I headed home to rest and hoped my ears and brain would reboot in no time. And fortunately they did. The next morning I didn’t feel any residual effects. And the scan came back clean. What a wonderful way to start the week.

Readers, how do you protect your hearing during an MRI or other noisy medical procedure?

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