Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To start with, many people do have a tendency to THINK that outside circumstances are most likely to make them happy. They consistently mention things like more wealth, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What studies have found, on the other hand, is surprisingly the opposite. The things that people genuinely REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make most people happiest are high confidence, strong social skills, healthy relationships, free time, volunteering, and humor, as presented in the Stanford University video We Don’t Know What Makes Us Happy (But We Think We Do).
Winning the Lottery and the Hedonic Treadmill
If you answered that winning the lottery would make you happier, you might be right, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one commonly referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed several Illinois state lottery winners and compared them with both non-winners and with accident victims that were left paraplegic or quadriplegic.
The interview questions aimed at evaluating happiness levels, and the results demonstrated that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals will usually have a preset happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling trauma cause a temporary spike or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain roughly the same levels of happiness throughout life, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you secure a job with a higher income, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, you’ll just desire a job with even greater income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your response is more consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has uncovered that the single most significant determiner of happiness is our relationships. He points out that our brains have evolved so that we can be social, and that “friendless people are not happy.”
Which is great news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Several studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and achieve enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids promotes all of the things that tend to make us happier, while winning the lottery provides more money, which at best will only make us temporarily happier. So the next time you head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to drop by the local hearing specialist instead.