We all love the music that our routines are choreographed to, and that’s why dance competitions usually play your music really LOUD. Sound pressure levels of greater than 95 decibels are common in competition venues. You can easily get an approximate measure of the sound pressure level of any environment you are in with a free smartphone app. (I use Decibel Meter-Free for iPhone.)
Most dance teachers and choreographers are unaware that exposure to sound sources at these volumes (94 db or more) for more than 60 minutes consecutively can cause permanent hearing loss (source:National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)).
That is why I ALWAYS use hearing protection at dance competitions. You can use the cheap, foam type found in pharmacies, but that type tends to muffle the sound, and is therefore not enjoyable to use. I use Ear Peace protectors, which reduce the volume uniformly across all frequencies. The result is that the music sounds just as good as without the ear plugs, but the sound pressure is reduced so that you don’t damage your hearing or leave the competition with a splitting headache. I find that music actually sounds BETTER at competitions or rock concerts with the ear plugs than without, because at super-loud volumes, music actually distorts in your ear drums. Best of all, you can get a pair of HD Ear Peace protectors, with carrying case, for less than $20.
The other great thing about Ear Peace protection is that you can still have conversations with people that are next to you.
Just as you wear sunglasses in bright sunlight situations, consider hearing protection to be the equivalent device for your ears in loud settings. Do yourself a favor and protect your ears the next time you are at dance competition, especially when the solution is quite inexpensive.