Many of our earaches are caused by middle-ear infections, inner-ear infections or by swimmer's ear. Sometimes, earaches hitch a ride with the common cold. Ear infections are either going to be bacterial or viral. Although earaches with an accompanying high fever usually indicate a bacterial infection, that's not a hard-and-fast rule. That means that it can be tricky to tell the viral and bacterial infections apart. While bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics, viral infections can't. And to further complicate things, not all earaches are infections — some are related to other issues such as those that coincide with a toothache.
The good news is that most ear infections will clear up on their own with at-home treatment and a few days of patience (and usually before antibiotics even begin to do their work).
Earaches caused by a foreign object in the ear, though? The ER can absolutely help you with that. Attempting to remove the object on your own could cause serious permanent damage.