Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new set of hearing aids
It may seem clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To start, many people do have a tendency to THINK that extraneous conditions are most likely to make them happy. They regularly 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 reverse. 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 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 in your favor.
In one routinely 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 focused on comparing happiness levels, and the findings showed that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people tend to have a fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or suffering a debilitating injury cause a transient increase or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases 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 more than likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, you’ll just want 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 response is most consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research on happiness has revealed that the single most vital determinant 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 foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent 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. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve improved relationships and social skills.
As a result, wearing hearing aids promotes 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 head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.