Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new set of hearing aids
It might sound obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a quite different story.
To start, most people do have a tendency to THINK that outside circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They routinely cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a 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 people happiest are high confidence, strong social skills, robust relationships, free 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 may be correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one regularly cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed several 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 assessing happiness levels, and the findings showed that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals are likely to have a fixed happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling trauma cause a transient 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 roughly the same levels of happiness throughout life, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you land a job with a higher income, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just desire a job with even higher income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your response is most consistent with the research.
As indicated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research into happiness has revealed 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 fantastic 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 use them.
And research tends to support this view. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and develop improved relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids produces 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.