Presuming that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new pair of hearing aids
It might sound obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
For starters, many people do tend to THINK that extraneous conditions are more likely to make them happy. They frequently cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What studies have found, however, 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 people happiest are high self-worth, strong social skills, robust relationships, free 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 right, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one commonly referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed 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 comparing happiness levels, and the findings revealed 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 fixed happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or suffering a disabling trauma cause a short-term surge or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both instances will revert to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states that most people maintain approximately 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 in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, you’ll just desire a job with even greater income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your response is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into 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 great news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-assurance in those who use them.
And research tends to support this view. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and develop improved relationships and social skills.
As a result, wearing hearing aids produces all of the things that tend 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.