Ear Infections: Causes Make an Appointment Refer a Patient Ask a Question Reviewed by Cameran Collins, PA-C (November 01, 2018) The majority of ear infections are caused from viral infections that include the common cold and respiratory tract infections. These normally resolve without the need for additional treatment. Bacterial ear infections can also be caused from upper respiratory infections that cause mucus and pus to build up in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. Increased congestion associated with allergies can predispose someone to ear infections as this can lead to trapped secretions. Otitis Media Otitis Media is swelling (inflammation) of the middle ear space. This swelling may be caused by an infection in the middle ear in one or both ears. It is also a common cause of hearing loss in children. Winter and early spring are the typical times of the year when people develop otitis media. This can cause painful earaches and hearing loss. Hearing loss in children can affect their learning and speech development, but can usually be restored. Acute Otitis Media: a sudden painful ear infection Serous Otitis Media: fluid, pus, or mucus stays in the middle ear without draining Chronic Otitis Media: lasting for weeks, months or years Perforated Eardrum A hole or tear in the eardrum (the thin membrane between the ear canal and the middle ear) can be painful. You may see bloody drainage from the ear, lose hearing and have pain and/or ringing in the ear (tinnitus). Call your doctor if you think your eardrum has burst (perforated). Ear Infections: Symptoms & Diagnosis Clinical Trials For more than 100 years, National Jewish Health has been committed to finding new treatments and cures for diseases. Search our clinical trials.