One of the signatures of the presence of cracks in a sample is the nonlinearity in its elastic response to an impingent ultrasonic wave. The Fourier analysis is often inadequate to monitor the evolution of nonlinearity, since the signal-to-noise ratio of higher order harmonics is very low. In order to overcome this drawback, we suggest an alternative procedure to extract nonlinearity indicators from a recorded ultrasonic signal, based on the amplitude dependence of the response of the system. The procedure is first described and then used to analyse the evolution of the nonlinearity due to cracks induced by a quasi-static loading in mortar samples. Our approach allows to distinguish the compaction phase from the micro-damage progression and the pre-rupture phases.