Supposing that you have hearing loss, what’s more likely to make you happy?
A) Winning the lottery, or
B) Getting a new pair of hearing aids
It may seem clear to you that the answer is A, but research on happiness tells a quite different story.
First, many people do have a tendency to THINK that external conditions are most likely to make them happy. They routinely mention things like more money, better jobs, a new car, or winning the lottery.
What researchers have found, however, 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-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 right, but research is not necessarily on your side.
In one regularly cited study from the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, researchers interviewed 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 estimating happiness levels, and the findings demonstrated that lottery winners were roughly just as happy as both non-winners and the accident victims.
The study concluded that individuals tend to have a fixed happiness level. Significant events like winning the lottery or enduring a disabling injury cause a transient surge or drop in happiness—but the individual’s happiness level in both cases will revert to the fixed point.
This supports 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 secure a job with a higher salary, you in all likelihood will be temporarily happier. But once your happiness level reverts to normal, 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 answer is most consistent with the research.
As reported by social psychologist Dr. Dan Gilbert, two decades of research into happiness has uncovered that the single most significant determinant 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 foundation of any healthy relationship is communication, and communication is contingent on healthy hearing, hearing aids enhance relationships and a feeling 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, notice a positive change in their general mood, and achieve improved 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 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 instrument specialist instead.