Introduction. Acute otitis media (AOM) is the most common bacterial infection in early childhood, but the underlying mechanisms making some children more susceptible are poorly understood.Aim. To examine the associations between bacterial airway colonization in early life and the risk of AOM and tympanostomy tube insertion (TTI), and whether such associations are modulated by an insufficient local immune mediator response to bacterial colonization.Methodology. Bacterial cultures from hypopharyngeal samples were obtained at 1 week, 1 month and 3 months of age in the Copenhagen Prospective Studies on Asthma in Childhood 2010 (COPSAC2010) cohort comprising 700 children. Twenty immune mediators were quantified from airway mucosal lining fluid sampled at 1 month. AOM symptoms were registered in a daily diary until 3 years. Information on TTI in the first 3 years was obtained from national registers.Results. Children colonized with Streptococcus pneumoniae at 1 month of age had increased incidence of AOM [aIRR 2.43 (1.14-5.21)] and children colonized with Moraxella catarrhalis at 1 month or Haemophilus influenzae at 3 months had an increased risk of TTI [aHR 1.45 (1.00-2.10) and 1.73 (1.10-2.71)]. There were no associations between the local immune mediator response to colonization and risk of AOM or TTI.Conclusion. Pathogenic bacterial airway colonization in early life was found to be associated with an increased risk of otitis media, albeit not consistently. These associations were independent of the local immune response to colonization.