Supposing 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 clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a very different story.
First of all, most people do tend to THINK that external situations are most likely to make them happy. They frequently mention things like more money, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, on the other hand, is incredibly the opposite. 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 confidence, strong social skills, healthy relationships, free 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 might be right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
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 focused on 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 people will usually have a fixed happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling injury cause a temporary increase or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will return to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain approximately 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 almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just want a job with even higher income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is more consistent with the research.
As indicated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has found that the single most vital 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 sense of self-confidence in those who wear 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.
As a result, wearing hearing aids produces 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 stop by the local hearing specialist instead.