Ear infection. Treatment for middle ear infection (otitis media) will depend on age. Adults may not take antibiotics if the earache disappears in a few days. Children less than 5 years old usually need antibiotics, especially younger than 2 years old. Over 5 years, treat the same as adults. Analgesic ear drops or oral equivalents can be used to ease the pain.
Variable. The middle ear is the space behind the ear drum. Symptoms could include pain, pressure, hearing loss, drainage, dizziness, ringing noise. If suspected, get it checked out.
Maybe. Pain from a middle ear infection often comes from excessive pressure in the ear. If you have a hole in the eardrum you likely wouldn't have pain because the pressure can't build up, but you would likely have a significant amount of drainage from the ear in that case. With a cold you can have a noninfected effusion in the middle ear and these may not be painful (though you can have hearing loss).
Comfort measures. Some viral ear infections self heal in 2-4 day. Bacterial infections tend to persist and may lead to real complications. If not better after 3-4 days of comfort care, an evaluation and treatment is advised. Prior to antibiotics, hearing loss due to chronic middle ear disease was not uncommon and a significant complication called mastoiditis requires surgical drainage.
Ear should pop norml. As you ascend in a pressurized aircraft, some air is likely pushed out of your normal middle ear down your eustachian tube. As you descend & land, the reverse process tries to occur & you may yawn or chew & notice your ear popping. If you have a middle ear infection the fluid in the ear does not compress & you are not likely to have any noticeable popping.