What to do if you can't hear the caller or they can't hear you

You make a call and it connects. But you can't hear the person on the other end, or they can't hear you. What can you do?

First, pay attention to whether the problem only happens with certain calls to specific numbers. If so, try these troubleshooting tips.

If, however, you experience the problem on all calls and all phones, your first step is to check your phone equipment.

Check your equipment

Damaged phones, worn cords or faulty jacks can cause reception problems. If calls are ringing through on your line, but then you're having trouble hearing, try these troubleshooting tips for your equipment:

  • Try turning up the volume on your phone, or if the caller is having trouble hearing you, suggest they do the same.

  • If you have a cordless phone, try changing the batteries in the handset. Read more ideas for improving cordless phone performance.

  • If the problem only seems to happen on one phone, try plugging a different phone into that same jack. Then make another call. If you can hear okay, you know the problem was with the phone. If you still can't hear, there could be a problem with that jack.

  • How many things do you have plugged into your phone jacks? Each line has a maximum load capacity. Unplug all your equipment and then plug in each device one by one, testing your calls after each. When the problem starts again, you've reached the full equipment capacity for that line.

  • If you have DSL internet service, you may need to use DSL filters on phone jacks that connect to devices other than your modem. When DSL filters aren't used or installed correctly, you may experience static or a hissing sound on your line.

  • Check for a clear dial tone on all jacks. If the dial tone on one or more of the jacks is faint, unclear or intermittent, you probably have an inside wiring problem. You can hire any professional to make the repairs. If you subscribe to a CenturyLink maintenance protection plan, repairs are done by a CenturyLink technician for the flat monthly plan fee.
Phone plugging into filter (diagram)

DSL filter on cordless phone

Check your service

If calls are ringing through to your phone, but you're having trouble hearing, it's not likely that you have service problem. However, if you've checked all your equipment and don't hear a clear dial tone at any of your jacks, your next step is to check your service at the network box (sometimes called the "network interface device" or NID).

Note: If you live in an apartment, ask your building manager for assistance. If you live in a mobile home, the network box may be attached to a pole on your lot.

Phone plugging into filter (diagram)

Outdoor network box

Phone plugging into filter (diagram)

Indoor network box

If the Troubleshooter doesn't find an outage or a known problem with your line, it will present you with a menu of choices to get further help with common issues. Select Phone Problems and follow the prompts to identify what is wrong. From there, you will also have the option of opening a repair ticket or chatting with a support representative.

The same steps that the Troubleshooter will present to you are also described below.

Test for service at the network box

  1. Use a screwdriver to open the cover marked "Customer Access."
  2. Remove the plug from the test jack.
  3. Plug a working, corded telephone into the test jack.

If you DON'T hear a dial tone or the tone is faint, unclear or intermittent at the network box, then the problem is with our equipment. Request a repair visit by going through the Troubleshooter, and we will send out a technician. You will not be charged for the technician's visit.


If you DO hear a dial tone at the network box, that means there is a problem with your inside wiring or equipment. Refer back to the tips above for checking your equipment.

Need to change or cancel a technician appointment?

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