Exposure to low levels of jet-propulsion fuel impairs brainstem encoding of stimulus intensity

J Toxicol Environ Health A. 2014;77(5):261-80. doi: 10.1080/15287394.2013.862892.


Jet propulsion fuel-8 (JP-8) is a kerosene-based fuel that is used in military jets. The U.S. Armed Services and North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries adopted JP-8 as a standard fuel source and the U.S. military alone consumes more than 2.5 billion gallons annually. Preliminary epidemiologic data suggested that JP-8 may interact with noise to induce hearing loss, and animal studies revealed damage to presynaptic sensory cells in the cochlea. In the current study, Long-Evans rats were divided into four experimental groups: control, noise only, JP-8 only, and JP-8 + noise. A subototoxic level of JP-8 was used alone or in combination with a nondamaging level of noise. Functional and structural assays of the presynaptic sensory cells combined with neurophysiologic studies of the cochlear nerve revealed that peripheral auditory function was not affected by individual exposures and there was no effect when the exposures were combined. However, the central auditory nervous system exhibited impaired brainstem encoding of stimulus intensity. These findings may represent important and major shifts in the theoretical framework that governs current understanding of jet fuel and/or jet fuel + noise-induced ototoxicity. From an epidemiologic perspective, results indicate that jet fuel exposure may exert consequences on auditory function that may be more widespread and insidious than what was previously shown. It is possible that a large population of military personnel who are suffering from the effects of jet fuel exposure may be misidentified because they would exhibit normal hearing thresholds but harbor a "hidden" brainstem dysfunction.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Auditory Diseases, Central / chemically induced*
  • Auditory Threshold / drug effects
  • Brain Stem / drug effects*
  • Cochlea / drug effects
  • Cochlea / physiopathology
  • Female
  • Hydrocarbons / toxicity*
  • Male
  • Noise / adverse effects
  • Random Allocation
  • Rats
  • Rats, Long-Evans


  • Hydrocarbons
  • JP8 aviation fuel