Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new set of hearing aids
It may sound clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To start, people do tend to THINK that outside situations are more likely to make them happy. They frequently 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 reverse. 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 right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one commonly cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed numerous Illinois state lottery winners and compared 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 results demonstrated that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals tend to have a preset happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling trauma cause a temporary increase or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases will return to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states 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 secure a job with a larger salary, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, you’ll just desire a job with even higher income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your response is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has revealed 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 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 feeling of self-confidence in those who use them.
And research tends to support this view. Numerous studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve enhanced 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 drop by the local hearing specialist instead.