Presuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Purchasing a new set of hearing aids
It may sound clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
For starters, most people do tend to THINK that extraneous scenarios are most likely to make them happy. They regularly mention things like more money, better jobs, a brand new car, or winning the lottery.
What 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-worth, strong social skills, robust relationships, free time, volunteering, and humor, as presented 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 on your side.
In one regularly 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 aimed at comparing happiness levels, and the findings 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 fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling injury cause a short-term spike or drop in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both instances will return to the fixed point.
This is compatible with the “hedonic treadmill” theory, which claims that most people maintain roughly the same levels of happiness throughout life, comparable to when you adapt to and increase the speed on the treadmill.
For example, if you land a job with a higher income, you more than likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, you’ll just desire a job with even greater 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.
As indicated by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, 20 years of research on happiness has revealed that the single most vital 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 foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is reliant upon healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling of confidence in those who wear them.
And research tends to give credibility to this view. Several studies have confirmed that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their overall mood, and develop enhanced relationships and social skills.
Consequently, 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 venture out to buy lottery tickets, you may want to stop by the local hearing specialist instead.