An ear infection is most often a bacterial or viral infection that affects the outer, middle ear or inner ear.
Ear infections frequently are painful because of inflammation and buildup of fluids in the middle ear or inflammation of the outer ear canal.
Because ear infections often clear up on their own, treatment may begin with managing pain and monitoring the problem. Ear infection in infants and severe cases in general often require antibiotic medications and/or ear drops. Long-term problems related to ear infections — persistent fluids in the middle ear, persistent infections or frequent infections — can cause hearing problems and other serious complications.