Presuming 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 sound obvious 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 outside circumstances are most likely to make them happy. They consistently mention things like more wealth, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, however, is surprisingly 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 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 frequently 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 focused on determining happiness levels, and the results revealed that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals will usually have a preset happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling injury cause a short-term spike or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both instances 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, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you land a job with a larger income, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, you’ll just desire a job with even higher income, ad infinitum.
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 reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research on happiness has uncovered that the single most vital 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 great news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to support 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 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.