Objective: To study the effects of repeated exposure to MRI-related acoustic noise during image acquisition procedures (scans) on hearing.
Methods: A retrospective occupational cohort study was performed among workers of an MRI manufacturing facility (n=474). Longitudinal audiometry data from the facility's medical surveillance scheme collected from 1973 to 2010 were analysed by studying the association of cumulative exposure to MRI-related acoustic noise from voluntary (multiple) MRI scans and the hearing threshold of the volunteer.
Results: Repeated acoustic noise exposure during volunteer MRI scans was found to be associated with a small exposure-dependent increased rate change of hearing threshold level (dB/year), but the association was only found related to the number of voluntary MRI scans and not to modelled cumulative noise exposure (dB*hour) based on MRI-system type. The increased rate change of hearing threshold level was found to be statistically significant for the frequencies 500, 1000, 2000, 3000 and 4000 Hz in the right ear.
Conclusions: From our longitudinal cohort study, it appeared that exposure to noise from voluntarily MRI scans may have resulted in a slight amount of hearing loss. Mandatory use of hearing protection might have prevented more severe hearing loss. Lack of consistency in findings between the left and right ears and between the two exposure measures prohibits definitive conclusions. Further research that addresses the study's methodological limitations is warranted to corroborate our findings.
Keywords: Acoustic noise exposure; Hearing loss; Magnetic Resonance Imaging.
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