Newly launched electrostatic headphones can function within magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners, improving patient comfort and reducing anxiety during procedures. Leading-edge audio technology company Audeze developed the headphones in partnership with SMRT Image, a biomedical technology startup co-founded by UCLA Bioengineering professor Mark S. Cohen, Ph.D.

Many individuals feel anxious or claustrophobic inside the MRI machine, which also causes loud noise similar to a jackhammer when in use. Both can be difficult to tolerate since patients must lie still throughout an MRI scan, which can take up to 90 minutes. Discomfort and anxiety cause patients to move around, resulting in unusable images or aborted scans.

Noise-canceling headphones might seem like an obvious solution since they could eliminate loud noise and play calming audio to alleviate patient anxiety. But until now, the electromagnetic fields generated during scans have made MRIs hostile to electronic devices that include iron-containing materials. Standard headphone electronics also make low-level emissions that can degrade image quality.

To eliminate electrical noise, the Audeze team used iron-free materials to create a novel transducer technology. Within each earpiece, a non-coated, thin-film diaphragm with embedded carbon nanotubes holds an electrostatic charge. The electrostatic force then generates a sound that’s an opposite signal to the noise of the MRI machine, therefore canceling the machine’s sound within the new headphones, called “CRBN” (for “carbon”). The headphones can also play music or spoken communication from the MRI staff during the scanning.

Compatible with a wide range of MRI scanners, Audeze’s CRBN headphones also integrate with SMRT Image’s Lumica AV system. This immersive audio-visual technology is designed to enhance patient experience during MRI procedures. Audeze has also launched a non-medical version of CRBN, offering audiophiles and audio professionals a superior listening experience due to the novel electrostatic technology.