There are two main types of ear infections. The first is called outer ear infection, also known as otitis externa or swimmer's ear. It affects the ear canal, which goes from the ear opening to the eardrum. An outer ear infection occurs when water enters the ear canal and becomes trapped there by wax build-up. This creates an ideal environment for bacteria to flourish. The body responds to the infection with inflammation, pain, redness, and sometimes a fever.
The second type is called a middle-ear infection or otitis media. They occur when either virus or bacteria cause infection in the middle ear. The condition is a result of the tubes inside the ears becoming clogged with mucus and fluid. Middle ear infections can be excruciating and are often accompanied by high fever, hearing difficulty, nausea, and vomiting. The fluid build-up can lead to hearing loss
as all that ear fluid prevents sound from getting through.
This type of ear infection is much more common, particularly in very young children and infants. When babies and young children pull or slap at their ears, an ear infection is quite possible. Most middle ear infections are linked to an upper respiratory infection or an allergy. Forty percent of cases are thought to be caused by bacteria, the rest by a virus.