Presuming 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 might appear clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
To start, most people do have a tendency to THINK that external circumstances are more likely to make them happy. They consistently mention things like more money, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, on the other hand, is incredibly the reverse. The things that people in fact REPORT making them happier are not external or materialistic—they are mostly innate.
The things that make people happiest are high self-worth, strong social skills, healthy 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 may be correct, but research is not necessarily in your favor.
In one commonly referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers surveyed numerous 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 results 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. Major 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 is compatible with 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 land a job with a larger salary, you probably will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, you’ll just desire 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 most consistent with the research.
As stated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has revealed that the single most vital determiner 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 fantastic news for hearing aid users.
Because the cornerstone of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of self-confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to support this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are satisfied with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and develop improved relationships and social skills.
As a result, 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 drop by the local hearing specialist instead.