The discovery of ferroelectricity in hafnium oxide has revived the interest in ferroelectric memories as a viable option for low power non-volatile memories. However, due to the high coercive field of ferroelectric hafnium oxide, instabilities in the field cycling process are commonly observed and explained by the defect movement, defect generation and field induced phase transitions. In this work, the optical and transport experiments are combined with ab-initio simulations and transport modeling to validate that the defects which act as charge traps in ferroelectric active layers are oxygen vacancies. A new oxygen vacancy generation leads to a fast growth of leakage currents and a consequent degradation of the ferroelectric response in Hf0.5Zr0.5O2 films. Two possible pathways of the Hf0.5Zr0.5O2 ferroelectric property degradation are discussed.