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Statistics About the Decline of Silence in Society

The July 2011 issue of Real Simple magazine offered the following statistics and observations about the proliferation of noise and the lack of silence in our world:

  • In 1920 a Nebraska inventor designed the first automobile alarm. In 2004 New Yorkers proposed a bill to ban car alarms as a public nuisance.
  • Between 1975 and 2010 the average number of TV sets per household rose by 87 percent (from 1.57 TV sets per household to 2.93).
  • Out of the approximately 111.8 million households accounted for in the U.S. Census Bureau's 2009 American Housing Survey, about 25.4 million (nearly 25 percent) report being bothered by street noise or heavy traffic.
  • In a 2006 Pew Research Center poll, 82 percent of respondents said they had encountered annoying cell phone chatter in public. (Amazingly, only 8 percent of the respondents felt that their cell phone habits were irritating to others.)

The article quotes George Prochnik, author of In Search of Silence, who said, "I think we're seeing noise tied to a host of problems of the age—problems of attention, aggression, insomnia, and general stress. Noise is now the default position as a society. But I believe we have to make an effort to build a passionate case for silence."

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