Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new set of hearing aids
It might seem obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a quite different story.
To start with, people do tend to THINK that extraneous circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They regularly cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, however, 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 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 right, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one regularly referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 focused on appraising happiness levels, and the findings demonstrated that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people tend to have a fixed happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or experiencing a debilitating 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 supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain approximately the same levels of happiness throughout life, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you land a job with a larger income, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, you’ll just want a job with even higher income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your response is most consistent with the research.
As stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has revealed that the single most significant determiner 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 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 confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.