Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To begin with, people do tend to THINK that extraneous circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They consistently cite things like more money, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, however, is surprisingly 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, robust relationships, leisure 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 numerous 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 estimating happiness levels, and the findings showed that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people tend to have a fixed happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling trauma cause a transient increase or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states that most people maintain about 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 higher salary, you probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just desire a job with even greater income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your response is more consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has found that the single most important 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 cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to support this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve improved 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.