Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a very different story.
To start, people do have a tendency to THINK that external situations are more likely to make them happy. They regularly mention things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What studies have found, however, is incredibly the reverse. The things that people actually REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make most 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 may be correct, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one frequently 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 aimed at 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 people will usually have a preset happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or experiencing a debilitating injury cause a short-term surge or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will return 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 secure a job with a higher income, you probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, you’ll just want 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 response is more consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research into happiness has found 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 excellent news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is reliant upon 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 demonstrated that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve improved relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids produces 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.