Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new pair of hearing aids
It might seem clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
First, many people do have a tendency to THINK that external scenarios are most likely to make them happy. They frequently mention things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, on the other hand, is incredibly the opposite. 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 confidence, strong social skills, robust 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 might be correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one regularly referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 aimed at comparing happiness levels, and the findings demonstrated that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals will usually have a fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling trauma cause a transient spike or drop in happiness—but the person’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 example, if you land a job with a higher salary, you more than likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns 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 more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research into happiness has revealed that the single most important determiner 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 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 confidence in those who use them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their general mood, and achieve improved relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids promotes 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.