Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a quite different story.
For starters, many people do tend to THINK that external scenarios are more likely to make them happy. They consistently mention things like more money, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, however, is surprisingly the opposite. The things that people actually REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make people happiest are high self-esteem, strong social skills, healthy relationships, leisure time, volunteering, and humor, as presented 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 regularly cited 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 comparing happiness levels, and the findings demonstrated 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. Major events like winning the lottery or suffering a debilitating trauma cause a transient increase or drop in happiness—but the individual’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 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 secure a job with a larger salary, you likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns 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 wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
As stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research into happiness has found that the single most significant determinant 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 contingent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of self-assurance in those who use them.
And research tends to support this view. Several studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
As a result, wearing hearing aids promotes all of the things that have been found 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 head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to drop by the local hearing specialist instead.