Assuming that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) buying a new set of hearing aids
It might appear clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a very different story.
To start with, most people do tend to THINK that external conditions 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 studies have found, however, is incredibly the opposite. The things that people actually 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 shown 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 in your favor.
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 examining happiness levels, and the results demonstrated 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 preset happiness level. Substantial events like winning the lottery or experiencing a debilitating injury cause a temporary increase 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 states that most people maintain roughly 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 higher salary, you likely will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level returns to average, you’ll just desire a job with even greater income, ad infinitum.
Buying Happiness with Hearing Aids
If you answered that wearing hearing aids would make you happier, your answer is most consistent with the research.
As indicated by 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 foundation 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 give credibility to this view. Numerous studies have demonstrated that hearing aid users are pleased with their hearing aid performance, notice a positive change in their general mood, and develop enhanced 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 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 drop by the local hearing specialist instead.