Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new set of hearing aids
It may sound obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
First, many people do tend to THINK that outside situations are most likely to make them happy. They frequently cite things like more money, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, on the other hand, is surprisingly the opposite. The things that people actually REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make most people happiest are high self-worth, strong social skills, robust relationships, free time, volunteering, and humor, as shown 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 on your side.
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 aimed at estimating happiness levels, and the findings revealed that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals are likely to have a preset happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling injury cause a transient spike or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both instances will revert to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain more or less the same levels of happiness throughout life, similar to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you land a job with a higher income, you probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just want a job with even greater income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has found that the single most vital determinant of happiness is our relationships. He explains 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 reliant upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of confidence in those who use them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their overall mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids produces all of the things that have been found 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.