Ear Home > Ear Infection

An ear infection is often caused by viruses or bacteria that get into the ear. The most common type of infection is called otitis media. Symptoms of an ear infection can include fever, fluid draining from the ear, earache, and hearing loss. In many cases, antibiotics (drugs that kill bacteria) are used to treat the infection.

What Is an Ear Infection?

There are three common types of ear infections:
  • Otitis media
  • Otitis externa (also known as an outer ear infection or swimmer's ear)
  • Otitis interna (also known as an inner ear infection or labyrinthitis).


This series of eMedTV articles will focus on the most common type of ear infection: otitis media.

Otitis media is an ear infection or inflammation of the middle ear. This inflammation often begins when infections that cause sore throats, colds, or other respiratory or breathing problems spread to the middle ear. These infections can be viral or bacterial infections.
Seventy-five percent of children experience at least one episode of otitis media by their third birthday. Almost half of these children will have three or more ear infections during their first three years of life. Although otitis media is primarily a disease of infants and young children, it can also affect adults.
Otitis media is commonly referred to as a(n):
  • Middle ear infection
  • Ear infection.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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