Supposing 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 appear clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
For starters, many people do tend to THINK that extraneous conditions are most likely to make them happy. They regularly cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, however, is surprisingly the opposite. The things that people in fact REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make 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 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 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 focused on evaluating 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. Substantial events like winning the lottery or suffering a disabling injury cause a temporary surge or decrease in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will return to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain roughly 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 higher salary, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just desire a job with even greater 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 stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on 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 excellent news for hearing aid users.
Because the foundation 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 give credibility to this view. Numerous studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their overall mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids promotes 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 head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.