Electromagnetic and electrostatic instabilities driven by loss-cone particle distributions have been invoked to explain a variety of plasma phenomena observed in space and in the laboratory. In this paper we analyse how the loss- cone feature (as determined by the loss-cone index or indices) influences the growth of such instabilities in a fully ionized, homogeneous, hot plasma in a uniform magnetic field. Specifically, we consider three loss-cone distributions: a generalized Lorentzian (kappa) loss-cone distribution, the Dory—Guest—Harris distribution and the Ashour-Abdalla-Kennel distribution (involving a subtracted Maxwellian). Our findings are common to all three distributions. We find that, for parallel propagation, electromagnetic instabilities are only affected by the loss-cone indices in terms of their occurrence in the temperature anisotropy. However, for oblique propagation, even including propagation at small angles to the ambient magnetic field, the loss-cone indices do independently affect the growth of instabilities for electromagnetic waves, in contrast to certain claims in the literature. For electrostatic waves such that 1, where kx is the component of the wave vector perpendicular to the ambient magnetic field and pLa is the Larmor radius for particle species <r, we find that the loss-cone indices only enter the dispersion equation via the temperature anisotropy, and so in this case the loss-cone feature and perpendicular effective thermal speed do not independently affect wave growth.