You can develop an infection in your outer, middle, or inner ear. Middle ear infections, called otitis media, are the most common. They primarily occur in children and seldom develop in adults.

An outer ear infection, also called swimmer’s ear, affects the ear canal that goes from outside your ear to the eardrum. Bacteria thrive when water stays in the canal, resulting in an infection and symptoms such as itching, redness, and a watery discharge.

An inner ear infection most often develops due to a virus that causes inflammation of the structures responsible for balance and hearing. As a result, you have symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo (sensation of spinning), nausea, tinnitus, and hearing loss.