Infection and inflammation of the middle ears that characterizes acute and chronic otitis media (OM), is a major reason for doctor visits and antibiotic prescription, particularly among children. Nasopharyngeal pathogens that are commonly associated with OM in humans do not naturally colonize the middle ears of rodents, and experimental models in most cases involve directly injecting large numbers of human pathogens into the middle ear bullae of rodents, where they induce a short-lived acute inflammation but fail to persist. Here we report that Bordetella pseudohinzii, a respiratory pathogen of mice, naturally, efficiently and rapidly ascends the eustachian tubes to colonize the middle ears, causing acute and chronic histopathological changes with progressive decrease in hearing acuity that closely mimics otitis media in humans. Laboratory mice experimentally inoculated intranasally with very low numbers of bacteria consistently have their middle ears colonized and subsequently transmit the bacterium to cage mates. Taking advantage of the specifically engineered and well characterized immune deficiencies available in mice we conducted experiments to uncover different roles of T and B cells in controlling bacterial numbers in the middle ear during chronic OM. The iconic mouse model provides significant advantages for elucidating aspects of host-pathogen interactions in otitis media that are currently not possible using other animal models. This natural model of otitis media permits the study of transmission between hosts, efficient early colonization of the respiratory tract, ascension of the eustachian tube, as well as colonization, pathogenesis and persistence in the middle ear. It also allows the combination of the powerful tools of mouse molecular immunology and bacterial genetics to determine the mechanistic basis for these important processes.