Tinnitus is a ringing sound in your ears. An MRI can offer your doctor a more detailed picture of what is happening inside your ear. This can help them determine the exact cause.

An estimated 10% to 25% of adults have tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition in which you experience a ringing sound in your ears that others cannot hear. There are many reasons why you may experience tinnitus. It can be related to hearing loss, high blood pressure, allergies, or a tumor.

In order to treat tinnitus, doctors will typically search for the underlying cause. This usually requires diagnostic testing, which may involve an MRI.

If you believe you have tinnitus, your doctor will want to review your health history before providing a diagnosis and treatment plan. Typically, they will perform an inspection of the ear with an otoscope, and they may refer you to an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) for further evaluation.

In many cases, your doctor will request a complete hearing test. This allows them to evaluate any hearing loss and check the function of certain parts of the ear.

Audiologists, doctors who are specifically trained and licensed to diagnose hearing conditions, can also use a special test to determine the pitch and intensity of your tinnitus. This can help your doctor understand how tinnitus is affecting you.

In addition to this testing, your doctor might request neuroimaging to gain information about any neural changes related to tinnitus.

They might also request imaging, which can give them a better view of the structures involved, especially in the case of pulsatile tinnitus. An MRI, CT scan, or ultrasound can be useful for indicating structural issues or medical conditions that may be contributing to tinnitus.

In addition, your doctor might request blood testing.

Both MRI and CT scans can be useful for diagnosing the underlying cause of tinnitus.

After their initial evaluation, your doctor might recommend one scan over the other based on your likelihood of certain underlying conditions or to rule out specific conditions.

In some cases, your doctor might request both an MRI and CT scan, as the two scans can offer complementary imaging information.

An MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to produce images of the inner ear. The procedure is noninvasive and painless. But if you have claustrophobia, you might want to discuss taking a sedative or anti-anxiety medication beforehand with your doctor.

Before getting an MRI, alert your doctor of any medical or metal implants you may have. You’ll also want to let them know if you are pregnant.

To undergo an MRI, you will be placed on a movable scanning table. Straps or bolsters might be used to prevent you from moving. A technician will place a device with coils that send and receive radio waves around your head and ear region.

You will be instructed to remain still while images are being taken inside the MRI. The technician might give you a shot or IV with contrast material before or during the procedure. A microphone inside the machine will allow you to communicate with the technician.

The images will be interpreted later by a radiologist, and they will send a report to your doctor.

MRIs can be used to detect structural abnormalities in the ear that affect nerves.

For example, an MRI can detect a growth or tumor near the eighth cranial nerve. It can also show changes in the blood vessels near the ears.

Yes, it’s possible that the loud noise from an MRI can worsen the ringing in your ears.

But any negative effects from the MRI are usually temporary. You might also be given earplugs or earphones with music before the MRI. So you might not have issues with the noise of the machine.

If you are worried about this, talk with your doctor about whether it’s possible to wear ear protection.

Identifying and treating the underlying conditions of tinnitus can reduce or completely eliminate the ringing sounds.

If you have tinnitus, doctors might request an MRI of the affected ear to help determine the cause. Because tinnitus is linked with many different health conditions, doctors will do a variety of tests to eliminate potential causes and help determine why you’re experiencing these sounds.