Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new pair of hearing aids
It may sound clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
For starters, most people do have a tendency to THINK that extraneous circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They regularly mention things like more money, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, on the other hand, is surprisingly 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, 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 correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one frequently referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 determining happiness levels, and the findings revealed 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 fixed happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling trauma cause a temporary surge or decrease 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 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 secure a job with a higher salary, you more than likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just want a job with even greater income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
As indicated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has uncovered that the single most significant 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 excellent news for hearing aid users.
Because the foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-assurance in those who use them.
And research tends to give credibility to 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 achieve enhanced 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 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.