Presuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new set of hearing aids
It might appear clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
For starters, most people do tend to THINK that outside circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They regularly cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, on the other hand, is incredibly the opposite. The things that people in fact REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make people happiest are high confidence, strong social skills, healthy relationships, free time, volunteering, and humor, as demonstrated 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 correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one routinely referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed several Illinois state lottery winners and contrasted them with both non-winners and with accident victims that were left paraplegic or quadriplegic.
The interview questions focused on comparing happiness levels, and the results showed that lottery winners were roughly just 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 debilitating injury cause a short-term surge or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will revert to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states that most people maintain roughly the same levels of happiness throughout life, similar to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you secure a job with a higher salary, you more than likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, you’ll just want a job with even higher income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has found that the single most important 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 foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of self-confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Several studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids promotes all of the things that have been found to make us happier, while winning the lottery gives us 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.