Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new set of hearing aids
It might appear obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a quite different story.
To begin with, most people do tend to THINK that outward situations 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 numerous 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 confidence, strong social skills, robust relationships, free time, volunteering, and humor, as revealed 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 right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one commonly cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 aimed at comparing happiness levels, and the results showed that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that people are likely to have a fixed happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or experiencing a disabling injury cause a temporary increase or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both instances will revert to the fixed point.
This supports the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which states that most people maintain about the same levels of happiness throughout life, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you secure a job with a higher salary, you probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just want a job with even greater income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that using hearing aids would make you happier, your response is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years 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 great news for hearing aid users.
Because the foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is dependent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of confidence in those who use them.
And research tends to support 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 develop improved 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to drop by the local hearing specialist instead.