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 might appear clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To begin with, most people do tend to THINK that outward scenarios are more likely to make them happy. They regularly cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers 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 most people happiest are high self-esteem, strong social skills, healthy relationships, leisure 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 might be right, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
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 determining happiness levels, and the findings revealed that lottery winners were roughly just 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 suffering a disabling injury cause a short-term surge or drop in happiness—but the person’s happiness level in both cases 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, similar to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For instance, if you land a job with a larger income, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to normal, you’ll just want 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 response is more consistent with the research.
According to social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has found that the single most significant 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 reliant upon 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 confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, feel a positive change in their overall mood, and develop 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 head out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to drop by the local hearing specialist instead.