Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a very different story.
To start with, people do have a tendency to THINK that outside scenarios 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 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 most people happiest are high self-confidence, strong social skills, robust relationships, leisure 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 may be correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one commonly cited 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 evaluating happiness levels, and the results showed 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 fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling injury cause a temporary surge or drop in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will return to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states 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 instance, if you secure a job with a larger salary, you likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, 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 response is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has revealed that the single most vital determinant 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 excellent news for hearing aid users.
Because the foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is reliant upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of self-assurance in those who wear them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Numerous studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve enhanced relationships and social skills.
As a result, 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 stop by the local hearing specialist instead.