Presuming 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 appear obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To start, most people do tend to THINK that outside circumstances are most 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 in fact REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make most people happiest are high self-esteem, 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 may be right, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one frequently referenced 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 aimed at evaluating 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 tend to have a preset happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or experiencing a debilitating injury cause a temporary surge or decrease in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will revert 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, similar to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you land a job with a larger salary, you almost certainly 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 answer is more consistent with the research.
According to 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 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 foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of self-confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to support this view. Several studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their general mood, and develop improved relationships and social skills.
Consequently, 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 head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.