Assuming 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 appear obvious to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
First, most people do have a tendency to THINK that outward situations are more likely to make them happy. They frequently mention things like more wealth, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What numerous studies have found, however, 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 self-esteem, 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 may be right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
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 examining 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 individuals will usually have a preset happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling trauma cause a short-term spike or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain approximately 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 larger salary, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to average, you’ll just desire a job with even higher income, and on and on.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research into happiness has revealed that the single most vital determiner 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 reliant upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a sense of confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to support this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall 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 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 drop by the local hearing specialist instead.