Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new pair of hearing aids
It might sound obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
For starters, people do tend to THINK that extraneous circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They routinely mention things like more wealth, 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 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, leisure 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 correct, 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 compared them with both non-winners and with accident victims that were left paraplegic or quadriplegic.
The interview questions focused on assessing happiness levels, and the findings showed that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people will usually have a preset happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a debilitating injury cause a short-term increase or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will return 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, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you secure a job with a higher income, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, you’ll just want 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 answer is more consistent with the research.
As stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into 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 contingent upon 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. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their general mood, and achieve enhanced relationships and social skills.
As a result, wearing hearing aids promotes 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.