Presuming that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing 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.
For starters, most people do tend to THINK that external scenarios are more 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, however, is incredibly the reverse. 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-confidence, strong social skills, healthy relationships, leisure time, volunteering, and humor, as revealed 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 in your favor.
In one routinely cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 examining happiness levels, and the results revealed that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals tend to have a fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling trauma cause a short-term spike or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This supports 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 probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, 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 response is most consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has found that the single most important 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 contingent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-assurance in those who use them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and develop improved 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.