According to this article, sent to me by my friend Ann, the phenomenon is a lot more common that we would think. A group of Dutch medical researchers, publishing in the British Journal of Psychiatry, studied a group of 8- and 9-year-olds to find out how many of them heard voices that other people couldn't hear. Ten percent of them reported having what the researchers call "verbal auditory hallucinations." Sixteen percent of children and teens are believed to hear such voices. That's almost one out of five.
You can read a summary of the article here.
Whoa. I found this fascinating on several points. First, because so few of the kids seemed to be bothered by the voices they heard. They took it totally in stride. Second, because there were no other symptoms pointing toward pathology, and in the end the majority of these kids were determined to be perfectly fine, i.e. no evidence of mental illness at all.
And third, because the researchers don't ever say what, exactly, the kids were hearing--don't you wonder what the voices were saying to them?--or speculate about what these voices might have been. I guess "verbal auditory hallucination" is a way of saying the voices were imagined, but it seemed to be real to the kids. What kind of mental process, outside of mental illness, would make voices appear in one's head?
Our family's story was different, insofar that our daughter did seem troubled--extremely troubled--by what she claimed she could hear. Still, whenever an article like this shows up on my radar I'm interested in it, since even after all this time I don't have a definitive answer about what plagued my daughter, only a story about an unconventional journey that by all accounts, seemed to help.