(CBS) – It is estimated that 1 in 5 people suffer from tinnitus, a ringing or buzzing in the ear, that can be so intrusive it can affect a person’s quality of life.

Now researchers at the University of Michigan say a new experimental device that targets unruly nerve cells in the brain can help quiet the “phantom sounds” of tinnitus.

Human study participants who used the device daily said the loudness of the sounds was reduced and their quality of life improved.

Some people have tinnitus so bad they can’t do their jobs and can’t function at home, and current treatments include using sound to try to mask the background noise.

This device is different because it delivers soft sounds through earphones and mild electrical impulses through electrodes placed on the skin for 30 minutes each day to trick the brain circuitry into returning back to normal.

The device is not available to the public yet. The NIH is funding a larger clinical trial to begin later this year.

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