Get rid of annoying noises on your phone line

If you're hearing noise on your line, make sure the signal coming to your home is clear, all your phone-related equipment is working properly, no household devices are interfering with your reception, and all your DSL filters are correctly installed.

Start with the basics

If you hear noise on your line, isolate the source of the problem by checking the signal outside your home and the equipment inside your home.

To test the signal coming to your home, you need to locate your NID (Network Interface Device - this is a connection box usually found outside your home or building), plug a working phone into it and listen. For step-by-step instructions on how to do this, read "Troubleshooting for static or noise on your phone line."

If the signal coming to your home is clear and strong, check the equipment in your home for damage. Your phone, cords or jacks could be the source of the noise.

Look for simple fixes

The first 3 topics are covered in the phone equipment article, but since they're common causes for this service issue, we want to draw your attention to them.

  • Does your phone get noisy when your move the cord? If so, check the cord. Is it snug, both going into the handset and at the wall? If not, tighten it.
  • Check your phone cords for damage. Even small nicks and cuts can cause noise on your line. Replace any damaged cords. If you find a problem with your inside wiring, read "How to get your phone wiring and jacks repaired."
  • If the problem only happens with one phone, try plugging a different phone into that jack. Next, place a call from the new phone to see if the issue is resolved.
  • If you have internet service, unplug your modem and then check if you still have noise on your line. If you don't, examine your DSL filters, making sure they're connected and installed correctly.

Check your calling features

If the problem happens on all calls and all phones, could the issue be with one of your calling features? It's easy to misinterpret normal call waiting and voice mail tones/beeps as repair issues.

Voice mail

  • When you're home and have a new voice mail message, you'll hear a stuttered (or interrupted) dial tone when you pick up the receiver to make a call. This is normal. 
  • Simply check your messages, and the special tone will go away. If you've forgotten how to listen to your messages, read "How to check your voice mail."

Call Waiting

  • If you have call waiting, are already on a call, and receive another call, you will hear a beep in your ear. The person you're speaking to won't hear the beep, but you will. In fact, the beep might cause you to miss a bit of the conversation. However, you are still connected to the person you called, and the beep isn't noise on the line.
  • When you hear the beep, quickly press and release the hang up button to put the first call on hold and answer the second call. Press the hang-up button again to switch between call.
  • If you're making a call that you don't want interrupted, you can temporarily turn OFF call waiting. Simply press *70, wait for the dial tone to come back and then dial the number you want to call. (Call waiting automatically reactivates when you hang up.)
  • For detailed, printer-friendly instructions, download the call waiting user guide [pdf].

Check for interference

Basically, any piece of equipment plugged into your phone jacks can act as an antenna and pick up CB or AM/FM broadcasting station frequencies -- creating noise on your line.

Cordless phones are notorious for picking up other people's conversations as well as radio signals. If you have a cordless phone, read these troubleshooting tips to figure out what you can do.

If you don't have a cordless phone, do you have a satellite TV receiver, computer modem, answering machine, caller id box, fax machine or alarm/security system? If so, any (or all) of them could be interfering with your reception.

To test your equipment:

  1. Unplug your phones from both their jacks and electrical outlets.
  2. Unplug any other equipment that uses a jack. 
  3. After you've unplugged all your equipment, wait 1 minute and then plug a corded phone into each outlet. Test one jack at a time.

You should hear a clear, strong dial tone when you test each outlet. If you don't, make a note of which piece of equipment is plugged in and what you heard when you tested the outlet.

If you're finding interference but don't want to unplug the offending piece of equipment, try installing a radio suppresser or radio/noise filter on your line. This equipment is easy to install and can be purchased at most electronic stores.

Check your DSL filters

Do you have Internet service? Your phone and Internet use the same line. DSL filters split the signal coming into your home so both your phone and Internet service can share that line. Incorrectly connected and/or damaged DSL filters can cause noise on your line. 

Confirm that your DSL filters are properly connected. Every electronic device that's connected to your DSL line -- except your modem -- needs a filter. This includes: cordless phones, satellite receivers, computers (Dial up modem or power strip), caller id boxes, fax machines, answering machines and alarm/security systems. 

To check if you have a problem with your DSL filters:

  1. Leave your telephone and your modem attached to the phone line.
  2. Disconnect all other devices from their phone jacks. 
  3. As you remove each device, check your phone line for noise.
  4. One at a time, connect each device to its jack and check the sound again. 
  5. If you find that the sound gets bad after reattaching a device, replace that filter.
Tip: If you're having problems with your internet dropping, pay close attention the next time it happens. Did your phone ring about the same time? If so, you probably have a phone in the house that doesn't have a DSL filter correctly installed.
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