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Introducing the loudspeaker for MRI-compatible headphones

25 April 2022

New MEMS speakers used in headphones are designed to help patients relax while inside MRI machines.

USound, global developer of micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS) loudspeakers for personal devices and wearable technology, has announced its entrance into the health tech industry with its introduction of MEMS speakers that are fully compliant for MRI-compatible headphones and accessories.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a medical imaging technique that uses strong magnetic fields to create images of the patient’s body. The noises from an MRI machine can range from 65 to 130 decibels, requiring the patient to wear ear protection. Relaxing music is often a useful way to reduce patient anxiety and claustrophobia, but conventional headphones cannot be worn due to the strong magnetic fields.

Currently, the majority of headphones that are used in MRI machines are of the pneumatic type. The loudspeaker is located outside of the actual machine, with long plastic tubes connecting the transducer to the ear of the patient.
“From an acoustics perspective, the connected tube model adds a half-wave resonance with multiple harmonics to the sound, strongly reducing sound quality. That is not ideal for patient relaxation,” says Ferruccio Bottoni, CEO of USound.

“USound MEMS speakers are available without ferromagnetic materials and at a lower price than electrostatic transducers. As a company, we’re proud to provide MRI-compatible headphones manufacturers with an easy solution to an otherwise tricky tech problem.”

USound MEMS speakers have a small form factor. This is crucial in the development of slim headphones that fit inside the small receiver coils used in MR imaging of the brain, known as head coils. NordicNeuroLab is currently collaborating with USound to develop such headphones to provide communication, entertainment, and audible cues to patients undergoing MRI scans.

“We are very excited to work with the leader of MEMS loudspeakers and integrate their technology into our next-generation MRI audio system. The state-of-the-art technology and superior competence delivered by USound enables NordicNeuroLab to develop a superior and sophisticated MR-compatible audio system that fully meets the needs of our customers and partners,” says CEO of NordicNeuroLab, Thomas Omdahl.

Companies such as BoomBang, SMRT Image are also using USound’s technology to develop MRI-compatible audio products.

“SMRT Image is committed to creating the highest quality and easy-to-use comfort distraction systems for the medical imaging community. We believe USound MEMS speakers, when optimised in form factor and configuration, offer a new level of design flexibility,” says Boombang CEO and SMRT Image Co-Founder Tylor Garland.


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