Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new pair of hearing aids
It might appear obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a quite different story.
First, people do have a tendency to THINK that outside situations are most likely to make them happy. They consistently cite things like more money, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, however, is surprisingly the reverse. The things that people genuinely REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make people happiest are high self-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 right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one regularly 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 findings demonstrated that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people are likely to have a preset happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a debilitating injury cause a transient surge or drop in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will return to the fixed point.
This is compatible with 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 example, if you land a job with a higher income, you likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, you’ll just want a job with even greater income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
As stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has found 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 fantastic 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 confidence in those who use them.
And research tends to support this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their general mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
As a result, wearing hearing aids produces all of the things that tend 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.