If you were to go to many cities in the 19th century, in particular during the Industrial Revolution, life would have been louder than what we have in New York. But I think the noise we suffer from today is more incessant. We have a different set of issues -- nighttime noise and air traffic being some of the most obvious culprits -- but in the 19th century, even people from the working class often lived in situations where it was easier to find an actual quiet space or a space where the sound of civilization was mixed with some kinds of natural sounds. It's important to remember that not all noises are created equal, and many surveys have demonstrated that people's reactions to noise vary wildly depending on whether they're natural or mechanical. Even at loud volumes sounds like birds singing and waterfalls are soothing.
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