We examine the role of charged defects in inducing degradation of electronic properties of a-Si:H upon exposure to light. We measure the kinetics of decay of photo-conductivity of a-Si:H films at different light intensities, and the corresponding changes in mid-gap optical absorption. We find that the initial, rapid decay of photo-conductivity can be modeled guite well by invoking Adler's model of conversion of charged defects to neutral dangling bonds(D- to D° conversion). A consequence of this conversion is a decrease in sub-gap absorption upon photo-induced degradation, which we observe. Therefore, we conclude that charged defects coexist with neutral defects in a-Si:H, and they play a major role in early stages of photo-degradation.