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If by "handsfree" mode you mean headset mode, it may help to plug and unplug the cord into the phone a few times, it could be stuck on the headset mode and this action may fix it. If by "handsfree" you mean speaker mode, the speaker button should do it, but if not, it could be broken.
There are two things to check that you can fix. First, try replacing the handset (curly) cord. A broken wire in the cord can make this happen.
If that's not it, watch the hookswitch. That's the plunger that goes down when you put the handset in the cradle, and pops back up when you lift the handset. If it's stuck down, you will only get speaker and no sound in/out of the handset.
Unplug your phone line and power cord from the back of phone. Wait a few seconds and plug back in. Try your phone. It shoud be working. If 1 one of your batteries got so low that the phone cut off the rest of your phones did too. I don't know why, I just know this is not the first I hear of this issue with the newer Uniden cordless phones. Hope this helps you. Good luck!
Made phone call on Speaker; worked OK. (Had to phone the library anyway; good test.) Took handset apart, determined normal ear speaker was OK. Disconnected Speaker - never used it anyway. Switched ear speaker wires to Speaker connection. Soldered connection. Phone now works fine; just press Speaker rather than Talk. No parts, no cost, & a working phone. And if there's a problem I can simply reconnect the Speaker & use it that way.
Since this problem just started, I would first check to make sure there is nothing stuck inside the mic's port. Also, if you have a fan on in the room, that can also cause your speaker to fade in volume.
I say both of these because if the phone thinks you're saying something, your speaker will fade in volume. Whether you're talking or it's just air noise, the volume will fade.
an initial simple check you can make is to make sure that the secrecy or mute button is not activated or stuck, however as you say that the phone is brand new, I would strongly advise you to contact the vendor immediately and ask for it to be replaced as it is faulty.