It’s not just your imagination. The world is literally louder right now than it’s been at any time in known history.
Even if COVID shelter-in-place orders brought a fleeting decline in decibel levels, the arc of modern life seems inescapable: more cars, helicopters, buzzing drones, pinging gadgets, ringing hospital monitors, blaring TVs in waiting rooms, and constant conversation in open-plan offices. Because emergency vehicles have to be loud enough to cut through the surrounding sounds, the decibels of their sirens are a useful measure of the loudness of our overall landscapes. Today’s sirens are an estimated six times louder than they were a century ago, indicating that our population centers are vastly louder, too. According to the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division, noise pollution doubles or triples every three decades.
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