Comparison of toluene-induced and styrene-induced hearing losses

Neurotoxicol Teratol. Nov-Dec 1999;21(6):689-97. doi: 10.1016/s0892-0362(99)00030-6.


Toluene and styrene are industrial solvents that can severely damage the auditory function in adult rats. In the present study, toluene (1000 to 2000 ppm) and styrene doses (500 to 1500 ppm) were investigated according to the same schedule: 6 hours per day, 5 days per week, for 4 consecutive weeks. The auditory function of the animals was tested by recording evoked potentials from the inferior colliculus over a frequency range from 2 to 32 kHz, whereas pathological data were evaluated by conventional histologic techniques. The permanent threshold shifts (PTS) were obtained with a styrene dose 2.4 times lower than that of the toluene. The slope of the regression line (PTS/doses) was 2.1 steeper with styrene than that obtained with toluene in the same experimental conditions. The sequence of histopathological events along the organ of Corti, especially the orderliness and the location of the traumas, was similar for paired concentrations of styrene and toluene, which were respectively 650 ppm, 1500 ppm for the first match, and 850 ppm, 1750 ppm for the second one. Both electrophysiological and histological findings point out the higher ototoxic potency of the styrene compared to that of the toluene. Assumptions concerning the ototoxic mechanism are addressed in the present paper.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acoustic Stimulation
  • Animals
  • Auditory Threshold / drug effects*
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / drug effects*
  • Evoked Potentials, Auditory / physiology
  • Hearing Loss / chemically induced*
  • Hearing Loss / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron, Scanning
  • Organ of Corti / drug effects
  • Organ of Corti / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans
  • Solvents / toxicity
  • Styrene / toxicity*
  • Toluene / toxicity*


  • Solvents
  • Toluene
  • Styrene