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 seem obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a very different story.
To start with, people do tend to THINK that extraneous situations are more likely to make them happy. They routinely cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What studies have found, however, 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 self-confidence, strong social skills, robust relationships, free 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 commonly cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed several 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 comparing happiness levels, and the findings showed that lottery winners were about as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals are likely to have a fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling trauma cause a short-term spike or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states that most people maintain more or less the same levels of happiness throughout life, similar to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you land a job with a larger income, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, you’ll just desire 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 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 excellent news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-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, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and achieve enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, wearing hearing aids promotes all of the things that tend 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.