Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s most likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new pair of hearing aids
It might sound clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness conveys a very different story.
To start, most people do tend to THINK that extraneous conditions are more likely to make them happy. They consistently cite things like more wealth, better jobs, a 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 most people happiest are high self-esteem, strong social skills, healthy 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 might be correct, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one frequently referenced study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 revealed 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 fixed happiness level. Major events like winning the lottery or enduring a debilitating trauma cause a temporary surge or decrease in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will return to the fixed point.
This is compatible with 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 instance, if you secure a job with a higher salary, you almost certainly will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, 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 answer is most consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research on happiness has revealed that the single most important 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 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-assurance in those who wear 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 enhanced relationships and social skills.
As a result, 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.