The ear is divided into three separate compartments: the inner, middle, and outer ear. The inner ear contains the balance organs and the nerves vital to hearing. The middle ear contains the bones that link the eardrum to the inner ear. The eardrum separates the middle and outer ears. The outer ear is simply the earlobe and a short tube leading to the eardrum.

Infection of the inner ear is called labyrinthitis. Infection of the middle ear is called otitis media. Infection of the outer ear is called otitis externa or swimmer's ear.

Outer ear infections can be acute (short-term) or chronic (lasting 3 or more months) and are more common in children 7 to 12 years of age. Outer ear infections also more commonly affect people in warm and humid climates, people who swim, and people who use devices that protect hearing.

Written and reviewed by the MediResource Clinical Team