Beep Sound on Phone During Call: Meaning?

Here’s what it means when you hear a beep or buzz sound while you’re on the phone:

More often than not, this sound is caused by call waiting.

It can be your call-waiting notification that allows you to use the feature, or it can be the call-waiting notification for the person on the call. 

Potentially, any interaction where phone lines switch or engage different connections can cause a beep or buzz.

So if you want to learn all about the meaning of a beep or buzz sound while you’re on the phone, then this article is for you.

Let’s get started!

Is the Beep or Buzz a Call Waiting?

If you have a call waiting service on your phone line, you get a beep or notification if you have an incoming call while you are on the phone with someone else. 

That beep or buzz sound that you hear is your call waiting. It allows you to put the current conversation on hold and talk to the incoming caller.

The person you are talking to probably also has that feature since it has been standard for a while now. When they receive a call waiting notice, it can potentially be heard over the line?

Why can you hear someone else’s call waiting?

Normally, you don’t hear notifications from the other phone on the call unless it is through the use of a speakerphone or similar setup. What makes call waiting different? 

Well, the way that call waiting works is by temporarily extending a second functioning line to your phone. It is when the second line connects to allow the call waiting notification that a traditional phone call can create the beep or buzz sound.

You hear it because these are non-digital communications, and the lines impact each other when they connect or disconnect.

Keep in mind that this is referencing lines in a technical sense as they apply to phone systems. Your phone doesn’t have to physically have a cord attached to it. 

Even with cell phones, traditional calling mechanisms use ‘lines’ to make everything work. Call waiting establishes a connection to a separate call line, and you can hear sounds from the continuity disruption in your phone call.

Do Continuity Disruptions Make Beep Sound on Phone? (3 Things)

Young woman talking cell phone in loft apartment

Call waiting creates a sound when the continuity of the phone line changes. As you read above, this effectively involves the phone engaging with more than one line.

While you can’t simultaneously talk on both lines, the phone does have to interact with them at the same time, and it can create abnormal sounds.

While call waiting is by far the most common culprit, it’s not the only reason you might hear this sound or something similar to it.

Anything that causes switching in the line without disconnecting you can potentially lead to the same experience.

Many older devices used this type of switching to talk on multiple lines, record conversations or supply a number of different functions and features.

#1 Taping

This is a lot less common today.

With voicemail and digital recordings, you don’t need to connect something to a tape to record anymore.

Back when tape answering machines were common, they could cause this sound all the time. 

You could hear the buzz or click when the answering machine initiated.

In conjunction with call waiting, it was normal to ignore the incoming call and then hear the disruption when that call was directed to the answering machine.

Note that you wouldn’t hear the answering machine itself. What you are hearing is something like an echo through the phone line because the lines are switching and causing changes.

You can learn more about preventing your calls from being recorded in our article here.

#2 Faxes

Fax machine

Faxes are another device that can cause switching and the sounds associated with it.

A fax line won’t always create this issue, but there are circumstances where it can occur.

It largely depends on how the fax is set up in the home or office.

If you have a landline phone and a separate fax line, you can experience this issue. While you are on the phone, a fax can come through.

The lines are close enough that if they are not appropriately shielded, you can get what is called crosstalk between the lines.

Basically, you hear some of the noise moving through the fax line.

If you’re on a cell phone and a fax comes through a landline, you are very unlikely to ever experience this type of line discontinuity.

The two conversations are on completely separate technology and cannot talk to each other

#3 Echos

Like everything mentioned above, this is much more common with analog phones as opposed to digital lines.

With plain old telephone communication (this is the technical term for traditional phone lines), the systems have very little noise filtering.

When sound signals are sent across these lines, they run into junctions and switches.

When the traveling sound hits such a junction, it’s possible for some or all of the sound signal to rebound off of the junction and return to the phone.

This is typically called an echo, and in its most common form, you actually hear an echo of every sound you put through a phone.

If you have ever heard your voice repeating on a phone call, this is what was happening.

How does this relate to the buzz or beep sound when you’re on the phone with someone else?

Well, any noise sent by your phone can echo. Such as your own call-waiting notification. It can be a sound picked up by the receiver.

It really doesn’t matter. 

If it’s a sound that can come from your phone, it can come back as an echo.

Depending on the nature of what you hear with the beep, this could be the cause.

Why Do I Hear a Beep or Buzz on a Digital Phone?

Most of what was explained are more common on analog phones, but many of these situations have digital counterparts.

Digital call waiting still gives you a sound, and that could be what you heard. Additionally, digital phones still interact with analog phone systems. 

You can hear switching noises that are related to parts of the call infrastructure that aren’t inside your own phone.

Even though you’re using a digital device, it still reproduces the analog sounds that are sent through the line to the phone.

There are also additional digital features that can beep or buzz while you’re on the phone.

Any number of notifications can fit this bill, and all of them are controlled at your end with your phone.

If you’re getting this issue with a digital phone (or any smartphone), check your notification settings first.


  • Theresa McDonough

    Tech entrepreneur and founder of Tech Medic, who has become a prominent advocate for the Right to Repair movement. She has testified before the US Federal Trade Commission and been featured on CBS Sunday Morning, helping influence change within the tech industry.

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