Acute otitis media, also known as a middle ear infection, is a common ailment that affects the middle ear and is caused by a viral or bacterial infection, explains Mayo Clinic. Long-term middle ear infections can cause health complications that include hearing loss when persistent fluid is in the ear.
Middle ear infections are more likely to develop in children than in adults and can be painful due to a build-up of fluid in the middle ear, accompanied by inflammation, according to Mayo Clinic. Common symptoms of a middle ear infection include pain, diminished hearing, drainage from the ear and irritability. Young children may pull on the ear in response to pain.